“Too much power in the wrong hands is too little power in the right hands”
Pakistan among the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters
Activists & reporters facing beatings threats and death at the hands of Pakistan Army is an open secret. Pakistan ranks 139 out of 180 countries listed on the World Press Freedom Index 2017, which places it among the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters. A new edition to this murky series is a popular Pakistan Human rights activist Diep Saeeda spewing anger over Pakistan spy agencies, Pakistan Army and ISPR for hacking her account, stealing her data and threatening her. Mrs. Saeeda is clear whom she believes is responsible for such digital attacks and what is their modus operandi. “I’m convinced these are Pakistani intelligence agencies. They try to harass people and force them to leave the country.”
In her recent interview with BBC, she says that in the past they targeted her for promoting dialogue between ordinary Pakistanis and Indians.”There was a time they would visit my home or office on a daily basis. When I get up in the morning, there would be two people outside my home.” But she says the malware attacks were more invasive than anything she had previously experienced.
Tear-full and terrified she spoke about one of her closest friends, fellow activist Raza Khan, who has mysteriously disappeared. She revealed that the 40-year-old, who worked on promoting better relations between Pakistan and India, had been attending a talk on extremism on 2 December 2017. He hasn’t been seen since leaving the event. The next day, friends found his door locked and light on – his computer missing. They believe he was taken into custody by the Pakistani intelligence services.
Pakistan Army is averse to criticism. Are critics traitors? Every ruling party has an opposition party to keep it in check for successful governance. Pakistan Army does not like to be checked.
A few days after Mr. Khan’s disappearance, as Mrs. Saeeda was becoming increasingly vocal in the media, she started receiving threats. It is only when she received an email claiming to be from the office of the chief minister of Punjab when she sensed real trouble. It said the chief minister would be visiting her office to discuss the case of her still missing friend Mr Khan. This when she realized she was targeted and forwarded the emails to Amnesty International instead of downloading the files.
Human rights groups have repeatedly warned that the Pakistani intelligence services appear to be cracking down on activists who criticise them. In January 2017, a group of bloggers went missing for a number of weeks before being released. Two subsequently told the BBC that they had been detained by the security services and tortured.
The endless list of silenced and harassed activists & journalists
Pakistan’s most famous TV journalist, Hamid Mir, took six bullets and remains off air and under guard after returning from treatment abroad. And the country’s most famous TV host, Shaista Wahdi, had to flee the country overnight after she was accused of having shown disrespect towards the prophet’s family by playing a wedding song in her morning TV show.
Taha Siddiqui a well-known journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian and won the Albert Londres Prix award, the French equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, too faced the ire of the military. In his own country, he is known for critical comments on social media about the powerful military. For the same, he has faced life-threatening consequences. While Mr Siddiqui has dodged death and remains physically unhurt, others have not been as lucky.
Last year an Islamabad-based reporter of the Jang group of newspapers, Ahmad Noorani, was severely beaten by six men wielding iron knuckles, chains, and knives. His investigations into the recent Panama Papers case hearings unearthed embarrassing revelations about the role of the military that led to what some saw as the “forced” disqualification of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Waqass Goraya, a liberal Pakistani activist who went missing in 2017 said a “government institution” with links to the military held him and tortured him. Mr Goraya believes he was detained because he ran a satirical Facebook page critical of the influence of the Pakistani military in the country’s political system. The page had also criticised military policy in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.
Baluchistan has been under the virtual control of the military for almost 15 years. Journalists in the province are reluctant to speak on the record. In private conversations, they say they are caught in an impossible dilemma. “If we report human rights violations by the military or the religious groups, we are harassed and our government-sponsored advertisements are blocked to choke us financially. If we don’t, the separatists threaten us.”
The list is endless; the people of Pakistan are fed up with this tyrant dictatorship and are feebly voicing their pain. This country does not belong to any general, or any bureaucrat, or a capitalist or a feudal lord; it belongs to its people. Crossing the mandate in the greed of power will cost heavily in times to come, till then the likes of Hamid, Shahista, Noorani, Saeeda, Haider, Goaraya etc. will continue paying the price.
18 Jan 2019/Friday email@example.com