Monday, October 01, 2007

An Imminent Crackdown?

With the much publicised self-seeking manoeuvrings of politicians, like Benazir Bhutto and Mullah Fazalur Rehman, their threat factor to Musharraf is considerably less than those offered to him by the media and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the lawyer community.

The media in the shape of TV news channels has on a daily basis continuously exposed the regime’s unlawful sins and omissions, as it plots and schemes to ensure Musharraf’s ‘re-election’ on 6 October.

It is these wide daily disclosures that have unswervingly led to the increasing unpopularity of the regime. Currently with the Supreme Court being percieved as 'behaving' itself, free dissemination of information is now being regarded in Islamabad as the biggest menace of all. It is widely believed that the violent thrashing of journalists outside the Islamabad office of the Electoral Commission was a deliberate message to the Fourth Estate that all levels of tolerance have ceased.

Rumours are now rife of an imminent crackdown on press freedom by use of a PEMRA legislation or ordinance that includes a law which will render the office of the president to be ‘above and beyond public comment’.

In this age of satellite TV, the internet and mobile phones censorship is extremely difficult to enforce. Nevertheless one should be prepared for a period of draconian measures as the dictatorship heads towards its well-earned twilight.





21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Onlooker,

Being an expat, the only news I get is through Geo or Ary. Since you keep abreast of happenings in Baluchistan, I have not heard an iota of news about Baluchistan. Have all those displaced by recent floods in Baluchistan been taken care of as there is total black out in newspapers of the situation there except for a news in yesterdays paper that a pro-Musharraf procession was taken out in Quetta. Hard to believe. Hope you can shed some light. - imkhalil

Ahsan said...

from news reports, it appears the lawyers got more of a thrashing than the journos. anyway, i'm not sure the scenes we saw a couple of days ago have THAT much relevance to the political situation. our security forces like beating the crap out of people at the best of times. they would do the same even if there were no political crisis. i think the instinct to beat up civilians is ingrained during police training. that can be the only explanation.

Anonymous said...

It is a myth that the Pakistani armed forces are a professional and capable group. In truth they have lost every war they ever fought. The only `success' they had were against unarmed civilians in East Pakistan (now Bangaldesh), in Baluchistan and now even in the heartland. There is only word to describe this beating up of civilians: cowardice.
If law of the kind that onlooker warns (and he has been right often in his predictions) is passed, Musharraf will be held `beneath and below contempt' by all.

Onlooker said...

Ahsan

I agree with you when you say that among the police 'the instinct to beat up civilians is ingrained'.

But this was the first time in Pakistan's history that the riot police were being directed on the spot by an officer of the rank of IG (who was pointing at specific people for a proper 'going over').

It is obvious to all that that the IG was there to ensure that instructions issued from 'high above' were being properly carried out.

Yes, the lawyers were badly beaten but it is wrong to assume that journalists who were equally roughed up were just 'collateral' victims. They also suffered from brokens bones and according to reports one or two were still unconcious 24 hours later.

And it must be borne in mind that while the black-coated lawyers were demonstrating, the easily identifiable 'non-black-coated' journalists were simply carrying out their jobs by reporting from the scene.

Onlooker said...

I M Khalil

The insurgency in Balochistan is still simmering. According to my sources law enforcement agencies and the military are still being targeted but there is an official policy of denying everything unless it happened in broad daylight in an urban area (i.e. where witnesses happen to exist}.

I have given up on Geo, etc. and suggest that you do the same. Aaj TV is the gutsier one, particularly 'Live with Talat' and something called 'Bol Pakistan' where journlists Nusrat Javed and Mushtaq Minhas discuss politics with frequent 'phone ins' from political and regime personalities, as well as viewers.

redsnapper said...

Onlooker, I M Khalil, minor addition:

For those in US, AAJ is available on broadband through http://www.aaj.tv/aaj_wedget.php

ARY is not that bad either. If anyone was watching, they announced the latest Supreme Court judgement full 45 minutes before the official announcement....no one asked where they got the news from !!

Ahsan said...

ary is improving but i wouldn't call it one of the best. i was home for three months this summer and all i did was watch tv. i can safely say the following things:

1. geo and aaj have the best reporters. any time news breaks, they're the first ones to get it, sometimes unimaginably quickly (the karachi bridge collapse was one such occasion. i swear if i didnt know any better, i would say that geo and aaj reporters were responsible for it, they were there that fast).

2. aaj is a cut above on opinion and talk shows. other channels don't come close for (a) depth of focus, (b) maturity and (c) breadth/diversity of opinions (other channels are always either pro or anti something, not so with aaj).

3. we could lose at least 15 channels and not be worse off. there are about 457 quranic channels, 392 music channels (all of which play crap), and a couple of completely useless news channels (ahem indus). i hope market forces take care of this superfluous trash.

4. geo is a media conglomerate in every sense of the term (sorry for veering off topic here). they have a music channel, 3 sports channels, news channels, entertainment (drama serials etc) channels and godknows what else. they are operating on the rupert murdoch business model. they are also introducing an english news channel, which cant possibly be worse than dawns.

Fahim said...

Situation are getting unpredictable.U r true what u said abt Pemra.I think all programs would be banned that wd go against the Government. Also read interesting articles at the following link:

http://www.chowrangi.com/why-the-nation-doesnt-come-out-on-the-streets.html

http://www.chowrangi.com/police-of-terroristan.html

Anonymous said...

onlooker
As an outside observer, really like to know your take on why Nawaz Sharif tried to get himself declared Amir ul Momin or equivalent.

Besides the value judgement -laden explanation 'he was a megalomanic SOB', were there 'structural' or 'real politik' reasons, such as power of President /Army Chief etc to undo even 2/3 majority in Parliament, loss in executive power of civilian govt, inability to influence foreign policy etc?

Really like to know your take if possible. Is there a real cause for perpetual instability in the ambiguous constitutional powers given to President vs those given to Prime Minister in the Pak constitution which will always end up pulling the military and judiciary into the tussle wrt executive powers?

If so Musharraf's strong arm tactics to shore himself up before a parliamentary election were similar to Nawaz Sharif's manuevers and would be replicated by any President or Prime Minister.

Anonymous said...

Shape of things to come

http://www.chowk.com/ilogs/63382/31144

A bit long but enjoyable. - imkhalil

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