All posts by Seth Oldmixon

Hafiz Saeed…Democrat?

Hafiz Saeed with Tahirul Ashrafi

On Friday, Hussain Nadim explained for Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel why Pakistan won’t give up Hafiz Saeed. In his piece, Mr. Nadim suggests, as many have before him, that Pakistan does not view the Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader as a direct threat but rather sees him a useful proxy in Pakistan’s ongoing struggle with India for control of Kashmir. The author then adds to this banal analysis by suggesting that Hafiz Saeed has “rebranded himself as a political and social actor renouncing violence altogether.” This is a dangerous fantasy.

Almost exactly one year ago, Hafiz Saeed addressed a rally in Lahore to raise money for jihad against the United States. And lest we be mistaken, Saeed’s idea of jihad is not one of a personal and intellectual struggle against evil – he’s talking about guns and bombs.

In a fiery Friday sermon, Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed called on the people to wage jihad against America in order to save Pakistan and Islam. “Come to us. We will teach you the meaning of jihad… The time to fight has come.”

The sermon was held at the JuD head office Jamia Markaz al-Qadsia in Lahore, where Saeed had his own security. Some of the security personnel were also seen carrying weapons with silencers. A box was placed at the exit and men asked for people exiting the mosque to give funds for jihad.

In December, Hafiz Saeed met with Kashmiri separatist leaders and assured them that “militancy in Kashmir would escalate after the US-led international troops depart from Afghanistan in 2014.”

This is the same Hafiz Saeed that Hussain Nadim claims has renounced violence.

Hussain Nadim also repeats the myth that Hafiz Saeed’s organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) is a “charity organization.” But JuD is a charity organization in the mold of HAMAS and other militant organizations. Yes, they do conduct some relief work, but even that seems to be more part of a PR campaign designed to build sympathies among the people for their less charitable works. And JuD includes in its arsenal an impressive multi-national PR machine.

Tweeting last year, the “charity organization” called on God to destroy the United States.

 

And in Pakistan, away from gullible Western journalists, JuD is very open about their broader mission. The following amateur video shows a JuD procession accompanied by chants of “Only one cure for America – Jihad! Jihad!”

And as for the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), which Hussain Nadim describes as “one of the movements led by Hafiz Saeed that has united and mobilized followers of different radical ideologies, which Pakistani officials hope will create a force to broker peace between the government and militants,” we’ll let Hafiz Saeed speak for himself:

“We have only one objective: to form a civilian force for the defence of Pakistan, which can work alongside Pakistan forces, because Pakistan is facing very severe threats from both sides – India is one side, America and NATO forces are on the other and the agenda of both is Pakistan.”

Pakistani police may believe, as Hussain Nadim claims, that “Saeed has been redirected and is now being used as a tool to ensure the disarmament and evolution of militant groups in Pakistan,” but there is little evidence to suggest this is the case. What is far more evident is that Hafiz Saeed is doing what he’s always done – running a sophisticated paramilitary operation under the cover of a religious charity.

Willfully ignoring reality is unlikely to magically transform Saeed from mujahideen to statesman. And, unfortuantely, whether or not “Pakistan will have to live with the burden of being blamed for supporting militants like Hafiz Saeed” is beside the point. As long as militant leaders like Hafiz Saeed are allowed to act with impunity, Pakistan will continue to suffer the carnage and internal destabilization that they sow.

Pakistan’s Progressive Voices Refuse To Be Silenced

Pakistan has taken several important steps forward over the past four years. From President Zardari’s willingly devolving powers that had been consolidated under past military dictators to an elected parliament completing its full tenure, there are, as Peter Bergen recently noted, many reasons to be hopeful about Pakistan’s future. But despite Pakistan’s overall positive trajectory, there remains a disturbing trend that threatens the promise of a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan – the ongoing attempts to silence Pakistan’s progressive voices.

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Pakistan’s Sectarian Threat

Protest after anti-Shia bombing in Quetta

Tahir-ul-Qadri’s demonstration in Islamabad dominated headlines last week, but it was another set of protests that are more likely to shape Pakistan’s future. While thousands rallied in support of election reforms, thousands of other Pakistanis were demanding basic security for themselves and their families.

Following a terrorist attack that killed almost 100 Shia, families refused to bury their dead, instead taking them into the streets of Quetta and refusing to leave until the Army was directed to take over security in the region.

The sit-in was about more than the devastating attack that preceded it, though. It was an outcry from a community that has been attacked mercilessly for years. In fact, more Pakistanis are being killed in sectarian attacks than in drone strikes. According to data compiled by the New America Foundation, between 218 and 343 Pakistanis died in drone strikes last year. But by September of the same year, at least 320 Shia were killed in sectarian attacks according to Human Rights Watch – and this was before attacks that killed dozens more during Muharram. The attack in Quetta last week alone killed almost double the number of people as drones in 2013, setting a very worrying start to a new year.

Most of the anti-Shia attacks, including last week’s, are being carried out by the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) led by a man named Malik Ishaq. What’s troubling, though, is that Malik Ishaq is not hiding in a cave somewhere. He not only operates very openly, but with at least tacit support from very powerful institutions in Pakistan.

Tahir Ashrafi with Malik Ishaq After spending several years in jail on dozens of terrorism charges, Malik Ishaq was freed by the Lahore High Court due to lack of evidence in the summer of 2011. On hand at his release were a number of influential religious figures including the head of the Pakistan Ulema Council, Tahir Ashrafi, who was photographed riding next to a garlanded Ishaq as he drove away. The Express Tribune, an English-language daily in Pakistan, reported that Ashrafi said he believes “Ishaq should be integrated in mainstream religious parties claiming he has now been deradicalised.” Shortly thereafter, Ishaq began organizing anti-Shia rallies across Pakistan.

But it’s not just Tahir Ashrafi who has supported Malik Ishaq since his release. Last year, Malik Ishaq appeared on stage at a Difa-e-Pakistan (DPC) rally in Multan alongside Tahir Ashrafi, Sheikh Rashid, Hafiz Saeed, Hamid Gul and a number of other prominent religious and political actors.

Even while he was in prison, Ishaq was receiving support through some official channels. In 2011, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah confirmed that he LeJ leader’s family had been receiving monthly payments from the provincial government since the PML-N took power there in 2008. In 2012, the PML-N enjoyed election support from the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) after Malik Ishaq was given the position of Vice President. And earlier this month the PML-N and ASWJ held a joint press conference to denounce Tahir-ul-Qadri as pursuing a foreign agenda.

As if on cue, Tahir Ashrafi is now threatening legal action against a group of Pakistani bloggers who write about sectarian attacks in Pakistan, claiming that they are “Irani[an] loyalists [who] have been directed to spread lies to incite conflict in Pakistan.” Given his connections to Malik Ishaq, it will be hard for Pakistan’s Shia not to hear sectarian tones in Ashrafi’s allegation that Shia-majority Iran is attempting to “incite conflict in Pakistan” by raising awareness of anti-Shia violence.

TIME’s Omar Waraich warns that anti-Shia violence in Pakistan could ignite regional conflict with Iran “have grave consequences not just for the country but also the wider region”, and it is certainly true that tension with a third neighbor is the last thing that Pakistan needs right now. Of greater concern, however, is, as Waraich observes, the internal threat of destabilization that anti-Shia violence presents. Politicians from across the political spectrum were quick to condemn last week’s bombing in Quetta. But as Pakistan’s Shia lose their patience – and their lives – a more tangible solution to the crisis is needed soon.

Did Tahir-ul-Qadri Make Imran Khan Irrelevant?

Tahir-ul-Qadri's supporters in Lahore

The Tahir-ul-Qadri show appears to have ended as quickly as it began. After brief talks with the government, a five-point agreement was signed and both sides declared victory. In fact, in many ways it seems that almost everyone came out a winner – Dr. Qadri got the government to agree to give him some input in who will serve as caretake Prime Minister; the PPP-coalition government skillfully defused a potentially messy situation not through force, but through compromise; and the PML-N did not hijack the demonstration or exploit it for short-term gain, but emphasized the importance of following the Constitution and the democratic process. The only group that really gained nothing was Imran Khan. The question is, did the events of the past week actually render him irrelevant?

Over the past few years, Imran Khan has spent significant time and money trying to transform his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), from a one-man show to a national political player. His mammoth rallies in 2011 promised to do just that. But even at the time, Michael Kugelman saw this as potentially peaking too soon.

Kugelman had an important point. Elections were not expected for almost two years, and there’s a chasm of difference between building excitement about a candidate and actually forcing early elections. And as every political professional knows too well, time management is essential to a successful campaign – with too little time you can’t effectively engage voters; with too much you run the risk of losing their interest.

By coming out so strong so early, Imran Khan took a big gamble. True, he needed the time to not only gather support but to demonstrate that he was a legitimate contender. Politicians at the level of Javed Hashmi and Shah Mehmood Qureshi weren’t going to join PTI unless they had significant reason to believe that it had a chance in national elections. But with so much time before the current administration’s term comes to an end, there was a real risk that something could go wrong or that people would lose interest.

A few months ago, Michael Kugelman revisited his 2011 thesis, suggesting that Imran Khan was “taking some time out to rethink his problematic political strategy and platform.” While Khan was thinking, though, Tahir-ul-Qadri was preparing to act. The Canadian cleric arrived in Pakistan not years, but months before elections were expected. His timing was impeccable.

While Qadri was leading his supporters on a march to Islamabad, Imran Khan was forced to decide if he was going to join Qadri’s march – as a supporting actor. In the end, Khan chose to try to support Qadri’s agenda without actually joining his action.

 

Khan’s Tweet betrays him, though. Qadri’s agenda was about who had a say in choosing the caretaker government. If that was Imran Khan’s agenda, as he claimed, the march would have to come before the formation of the caretaker government otherwise their demands would be moot.

From the sidelines, Khan held a press conference and issued demands of his own – including that President Zardari resign immediately; that the Election Commission of Pakistan take notice of “pre-poll rigging” in the form of “distributing laptops and through the Benazir Income Support Programme”; and that the sitting Prime Minister be arrested. But by this point, hardly anyone was paying attention to Imran Khan. Tahir-ul-Qadri was the man of the hour.

Two days later, Tahir-ul-Qadri achieved what Imran Khan couldn’t achieve in two years – he got to government to agree to a specific timeline and set of reforms that would help shape the coming elections. Most importantly, Tahir-ul-Qadri – whose Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party has exactly zero elected seats in parliament – managed to get the extraordinary concession of a seat at the table in the discussion of who will lead the caretaker setup.

Today, Reuters reported that PAT is considering contesting elections after sitting them out in 2008. Despite turning out an estimated 50,000 people to his protest, however, it is unlikely that Qadri has the electoral support to present much of a threat to the PPP or PML-N’s entrenched vote bases. But Qadri may be able to present a significant threat to PTI by splitting the protest vote.

In politics, nothing succeeds like success, and after the events of the past week, some of Imran Khan’s supporters may see in Tahir-ul-Qadri a more viable vehicle for their reformist agenda. That Qadri’s Minhaj-ul-Quran is aligned with a moderate, sufi-informed school of Islam also gives the PAT leader religious credentials without the accusations of being a Taliban sympathizer.

Whether or not Tahir-ul-Qadri does decide to contest the elections, however, it remains to be seen if Imran Khan can recover from a week in which he was relegated to the sidelines during an event that capitalized on what were supposed to be his two major strengths – the ability to mobilize a large number of people, and public desire for a new choice in politics. Tahir-ul-Qadri may have come to Islamabad looking to end the political careers of Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, but as the dust begins to settle, it looks like Imran Khan may be the one who stands to lose.

Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Record Does Not Portend Liberalized Politics

Tahir-ul-Qadri

It’s not often that ISPR and the US Embassy in Islamabad both issue statements denying support for the same group, but that is exactly how 2013 started when both institutions felt compelled to clarify that they are not supporting Tahir-ul-Qadri, the latest Pakistani politician threatening a “long march” to upend the political order. The cleric’s recent return to Pakistan’s political scene has unleashed an entirely new set of questions in an already confusing political scene. The Atlantic asked this week if “this Islamic cleric [can] liberalize Pakistan’s politics.” Based on his political record, there is good reason to believe that he whether or not he can, he has no intention of doing nso.

Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri’s major demand – that a caretaker government be chosen with the oversight of the military and judiciary – is actually nothing new. In fact, Qadri’s 2013 platform sounds very similar to his demand in 2001:

He proposed that elections should be held under the judicial control of the Election Commission and administrative control of the army.

Tahir-ul-Qadri claims that by giving the military a role in appointing a caretaker government he’s looking for nothing more than “consensus,” but his demand suffers from a fatal flaw – it’s patently unconstitutional. Article 224 of Pakistan’s Constitution spells out exactly how a caretaker government is to be appointed, and there is no mention of the military or the judiciary.

Additionally, Tahir-ul-Qadri’s past political efforts suggest that he’s a little more sympathetic to authoritarianism than the political liberalization The Atlantic may hope for. Tahir-ul-Qadri launched his political party, the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) in 1989 in opposition to then-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government. PAT participated in elections the following year but made no inroads, and continued as a minor opposition party following the 1990 elections that elevated Nawaz Sharif to Prime Minister.

It wasn’t until 1999, however, that Tahir-ul-Qadri started to really gain traction in Pakistani politics when he chose to support Gen Musharraf’s coup against Nawaz Sharif’s democratically-elected government. In 2002, PAT reportedly praised Musharraf’s dictatorship as “far better than that of the preceding democratic governments.”

Tahir-ul-Qadri’s support for the military establishment in the early 2000s did not translate into much tangible political power, however. Despite being part of a pro-Musharraf coalition in 2002, Qadri’s party actually garnered less electoral support than Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI), a paltry 0.7%.

Tahir-ul-Qadri was elected to the National Assembly from southern Lahore (NA-127) that year, defeating PML-Q candidate Abdul Aleem Khan by just over 4,000 votes, but this was to be the only PAT seat in parliament. Two years later, Qadri’s son, Hassan Mohiuddin Qadri, ran for National Assembly in a by-election from a Lahore district (NA-89) and came in second place with about 30 percent of valid votes cast. Shortly thereafter, Qadri resigned from the National Assembly saying that, though he had supported Musharraf’s coup, he was unhappy with the way the General treated parliament as a “rubber stamp.”

PAT boycotted the 2008 elections and Tahir-ul-Qadri moved to Canada where he lived until his recent return to Pakistan – one that has raised questions about how the relatively minor political player has managed to organize and finance his current political campaign and sparked the rumors which compelled denials of support from both ISPR and the US Embassy.

Today, Pakistani analysts remain divided about what role Tahir-ul-Qadri will actually play in the coming elections. But whether Tahir-ul-Qadri is Pakistan’s new populist hero or “the establishment ineffectually lashing out at its own lack of influence,” his record suggests liberalizing Pakistan’s politics is not part of his agenda.

Pakistan’s YouTube Ban About More Than An Offensive Video

Media censorship in PakistanPakistan’s decision to block access to YouTube was bound to fail. The US is never going to require a publisher to suppress content at the request of a foreign government. Neither will the US reverse course on free speech jurisprudence and enforce a blanket heckler’s veto on behalf of an insulted party. Given this reality, Pakistani policy makers should ask whether censorship is an effectively public policy, or whether such policies threaten to undermine the very democracy they have sacrificed so much to obtain.

Ironically, the infamous YouTube clip that sparked riots across the world itself was virtually unknown until it was pulled from obscurity and heavily publicized by a right-wing Egyptian TV host. After groups like Jamaat-e-Islami and the Difa-e-Pakistan Council organized protests against the film, Prime Minister Ashraf ordered access to the video sharing site blocked in Pakistan.

The government of Pakistan continues to insist that the ban is a temporary measure while a new “firewall” is built to block access to objectionable content not only on YouTube, but across the Internet. This actually makes slightly more sense, from a policy perspective, as restricting access to YouTube doesn’t restrict access to the offensive video which is available on other popular video and file sharing sites not blocked in Pakistan. Nor does the YouTube ban capture the countless other Internet Websites that contain content that could offend someone.

The only way to truly restrict access to objectionable material on the Internet, of course, is to completely disconnect from the Internet. Any society that chooses to connect to the Internet will have to find a way to live with offensive material.

Iran has been working on launching a separate “halal” Internet – one that conforms to “Islamic principles.” Of course, the “Islamic principles” of Iran’s Ayatollahs are not the same “Islamic principles” of Pakistan’s Sunni hardliners, raising the question of who decides what is objectionable.

In Pakistan, this is the real issue – who determines which ideas are and are not objectionable. As democracy replaces authoritarianism in Pakistan, some on the far-right are continuing to advocate for restrictions on access to information in effort to maintain some control over society – and it’s not limited to “blasphemous” content.

Pakistan’s cable operators blocked access to BBC World News in response to a documentary that some felt presented the military in an unfavorable light.

The operators called on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) “to revoke the landing rights of foreign channels” if they were found to be “propagating” information harmful to the country.

Pakistan’s judiciary has blocked critical TV programs through court orders as well as threatening criminal charges against journalists who criticize the judiciary or the military.

Geo TV’s Ansar Abbasi, who reportedly told US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Judith McHale that “we hate all Americans,” recently wrote that he is at war with Indian and Western culture, and complained that “vulgarity, obscenity, and the spreading of Indian culture in Pakistan is no big deal” for Pakistan’s liberals and intellectuals. And it was Ansar Abbasi and Geo TV that reminded Pakistanis about the forgotten video just as the government of Pakistan prepared to restore access to YouTube, causing the government to do an about face and reinstitute the ban on YouTube only hours after lifting it.

The Express Tribune, an English-language daily, noted the danger such a policy presents to civil liberties.

The fight against the YouTube ban is important to cause the government to think twice before it embarks on another round of censorship. The proposal to build a firewall like China, where the internet would essentially be controlled by the government, is extremely worrying. We need to make it clear that we do not wish to regress to a dark age when a centralised authority controlled all access to information. Retreating to such an era would essentially mean that we were longer living in a democracy.

As Pakistani officials contemplate how to protect both the right of free speech and public order, they should also consider whether the policies they are pursuing and the precedents they are setting are effectively serving the public interest, or whether anti-democratic forces are using these debates as a means to roll back democratic reforms obtained during the past few years.

Imran Khan’s Bad Press Week

Any press might be good press for aging rock stars and actors, but not for politicians. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan is learning that lesson the hard way following a statement earlier this week that seemed to suggest he was opposed to reserved seats for women in Pakistan’s parliament.

Speaking on Sunday at a women’s rights seminar organized by PTI, Khan reportedly told the audience that:

“Legislators in assemblies are representatives of the people. How can some women be representative of women when they haven’t even contested elections? In some areas it is not possible for women to contest elections, but political parties should hold elections within their ranks and promote women into higher leadership positions.”

The immediate and unintended effect of Khan’s remarks was to unite parliamentarians across party lines – against him. Women in parliament were quick to respond, calling Khan’s remarks “highly prejudiced, biased, discriminatory and alarming.”

Khan later clarified his original statement, explaining that what he really meant was that women should compete in special elections for reserved seats, though he did not explain how that would work considering his earlier claim that “in some areas it is not possible for women to contest elections.”

The clarification, however, did not stop the outpouring of responses from women concerned that their current level of representation was under attack.

Bina Shah, a Pakistani author and journalist warned that “forcing an already tiny pool of qualified women to compete against one another for a small number of seats will damage the gains that women are making in our fragile democracy,” and Dr. Farzana Bari, Director of the Department of Gender Studies at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad noted that Khan’s remedy, while possibly well meaning, overlooked the historical context of women in Pakistan’s political history.

Imran Khan must understand that women’s formal involvement in politics does not automatically lead to their substantive representation. Rather, their ability to effectively perform and represent women’s interests depends on the larger context of democracy; how they enter the political arena and to whom they are accountable. The PTI is absolutely correct in suggesting that political parties should hold elections within their ranks and promote women into higher leadership positions. However, he should not forget that political parties in this patriarchal socio-economic set-up and as gatekeepers have deprived women in general, and female party workers in particular, for the last 65 years from attaining decision-making positions.

This is not the first time that Imran Khan’s remarks about women’s rights have raised eyebrows. Speaking to reporters last year, Khan offered confusing and seemingly contradictory statements about whether he believed women should be required to follow a strict dress code in public. And in 2006, Imran Khan campaigned against a Protection of Women’s Rights Bill which he claimed was intended “to introduce a made-in-Washington Islamic system in the country.” The bill amended the infamous Hudood Ordinance promulgated by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq which criminalized adultery and made rape victims liable to prosecution for adultery if they could not produce four male witnesses.

The charismatic cricket hero has made an expansive media campaign central to his party’s election strategy. With national elections anticipated in just a few months, Imran Khan would like to keep his name in the press. But the PTI chief is learning a hard lesson this week: When the cameras are on, anything you say can, and will, be used against you in an election.

Tax Evasion Report Misses The Bigger Picture

Pakistani currency

A new report by the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan (CIRP) thrilled reporters nearly as much as it embarrassed Pakistani politicians. Finally, in black and white, evidence that confirms what many believed anyway – Pakistan’s lawmakers don’t pay their taxes. But as much as CIRP’s research confirmed people’s perceptions about politicians, it fails to address the fact that tax evasion is a ubiquitous phenomenon in Pakistan.

CIRP’s report repeats the claim that if elected officials do not pay taxes, no one else will either. This may be true, but in Pakistan it is complicated by the fact that tax evasion is not limited to elected officials. In fact, tax evasion is so pervasive that CIRP itself describes tax evasion as “a social norm” in Pakistan. This raises some difficult questions about the report’s conclusion that “the problem starts at the top.”

If tax evasion dissolves the moral authority of elected officials to demand payment of taxes by private citizens, does chronic tax evasion among private citizens erode their moral authority to demand it of elected officials? Certainly we expect elected officials to lead by example, and because of that we hold them to a high standard – one that involves consequences like the public “naming and shaming” carried out by CIRP. But expecting elected officials to pay taxes and absolving everyone else of the same responsibility is not holding elected officials to a higher standard, it’s holding them to a different one.

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that Pakistan’s Public Accounts Committee could not audit the financial conduct of any Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court, whether sitting or retired. And no one has dared to follow up on the research by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, author of the book Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy which found that Pakistan’s military operates a multi-billion dollar business enterprise that is virtually unaudited.

Neither the judiciary nor the military are investigated in CIRP’s report.

Second (and more to the point) if tax evasion disqualifies an individual from governing, and nobody pays taxes – who will be qualified to govern? Certainly none of the over 2.3 million of Pakistan’s wealthiest citizens who fail to pay taxes. And it’s not just the rich who don’t pay taxes in Pakistan – almost no one does.

This is confirmed by CIPR’s report:

Out of over 180 million people, around two percent have [National Tax Numbers] (NTN), and less than one-fourth of them actually pay tax. Millions of Pakistanis with taxable incomes are not even registered with the authorities.

Let’s be honest: people aren’t failing to pay taxes just because they see elected officials doing so, they’re refusing to pay taxes because they don’t want to pay taxes and they do not believe that tax evasion bears any real risk.

It’s convenient to excuse this behavior by claiming that Pakistanis don’t pay taxes because politicians don’t, or because they don’t trust the government not to steal the funds; but even if that were true, CIRP acknowledges that Pakistan has a long history of popular tax evasion that has persisted across different civilian and military regimes. This suggests that the true cause is more than mere aping of or distrust in whoever happens to be in government at the time.

Instead of dismissing the question by suggesting that Pakistan’s politicians don’t pay taxes because they’re crooks, we should be asking why nobody in Pakistan pays taxes, and then looking for a way to improve systems to close the tax gap not only among lawmakers, but all Pakistanis. Just don’t expect it to be as easy as embarrassing politicians.

Why is Pakistan’s military spying on journalists?

Pakistan Army

Pakistan’s military would be far better served in its public relations efforts by ignoring the instinct to be defensive, and instead accentuating its positive efforts at achieving peace in the region.

The News International, an English-language daily in Pakistan, reported this week that the country’s Military Intelligence (MI) has been collecting detailed information about journalists in a door-to-door canvassing operation raising troubling questions about media freedom.

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Pakistan’s Media: Selective Freedom and Selective Accountability

Geo/Jang GroupPakistan’s media has a reputation for being confrontational. After being freed by Gen. Musharraf in 2002, Pakistan’s media grew exponentially and is often credited with playing a role in the dictator’s eventual downfall. Following the 2008 elections, Pakistan’s media has continued in its unrelenting criticism of government officials – an activism defended by Geo TV president Imran Aslam earlier this year as “talking truth to power.” But in Pakistan,it appears that the media is more interested in holding some powers accountable than others.

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