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A trap like no other

Pandering to extremism


Last month, the State of Pakistan perhaps made one of its biggest blunders when it surrendered to religious extremists. A lot has already been written in the media about the Faizabad dharna (sit-in) but as a Pakistani, one still cannot come to terms with the way it all unfolded.

The elections bill 2017 was framed by a joint parliamentary committee over a period of three years and more than a 100-odd meetings in order to reach a consensus. A slight amendment was made in an oath pertaining to the Khatam-e-Nabuwat (Finality of Prophethood) clause in the Elections Act 2017, which was agreed upon by the government and other political parties. Not many would have even noticed it had it not been for a senator who pointed it out and started a debate on a tricky and sensitive issue. The government mishandled the situation. Instead of explaining the minor change in a proper context, the government panicked. From the law minister to the interior minister, everyone from the…

The beginning of the end

Pakistan army negotiates deal with mullah brigade, undermines govt

It was the beginning of the end of the Pakistani state as we know it this weekend, as the mullah brigade and the Army joined hands to assert their power over the state.

If you want to see what ‘playing with fire’ literally means, just look at what’s been happening in Pakistan in the last three weeks. As for the last three days, what has happened is not just mind-boggling but has also left one feeling cold and nauseous – literally. Decades of terrorist attacks around us may have made one immune to violence but there are some incidents that just leave a mark on you permanently. The way the state of Pakistan capitulated before the mullah brigade on Monday is one such incident, which will also have long-term repercussions not just for the country but our society as a whole.

For the past three weeks, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) held the capital hostage as a result of its sit-in at the Faizabad inter-change that co…

Islamabad sit-in

Pakistan has no hope of a state that can enforce its writ

In a surrender like no other, the state of Pakistan has made one mistake after another and shown that the mullah brigade can get away with anything and everything

Anger. Despair. Disgust. Fear. Frustration. Shock. These are just some of the emotions one felt after the state of Pakistan literally bent over backwards to appease religious extremists as it made a deal with those who had laid siege to the capital. What started as a controversy surrounding the Elections Act 2017 due to an amendment to the oath turned out to be the undoing of the entire state of Pakistan.

A mob led by extremist cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, leader of Tehreek-i-Labaik, staged a sit-in at Faizabad, Islamabad. For three weeks this mob sat there and hurled abuses at the politicians, judges, mediapersons, etc, and also ended up paralysing the lives of the people living in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The courts took notice of this and ordered the government to …

“No one is saying our last term, or any term, was perfect” — Bilawal Bhutto

It’s been 50 years since the Pakistan People’s Party was founded by your grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In your opinion, what led to the rise of the PPP and what are the reasons for its decline and present showing in the assemblies?

BBZ: There were multiple factors that led to the rise of the PPP, the most important of them being our ability to articulate the core challenge of extreme economic injustice. The entire country’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of 22 families. The PPP spoke to this injustice, and brought redistribution and hope for a more egalitarian society. Hope is a very important intangible, and it is important to conquer fear and fragility which becomes the lot of the deprived and the voiceless. We give voice to that hope, but we embed that in credible, transformational politics.

It’s another thing that we don’t spend billions in public money advertising it.

We obviously don’t enjoy the same parliamentary presence today as we did, but the biggest reason for thi…

The price of freedom

Journalism is exciting; the constant news cycle gives one an adrenaline rush. For Pakistani journalists, there is always something to talk about, some new 'breaking news', as there is rarely a slow news day. This is what makes this profession so different. On the one hand, there is the excitement and, on the other, there is - danger. We all know that freedom of expression is a basic right, but we also know that it comes with a price. Those who had forgotten this simple 'rule' were given a 'reminder' last month.

Ahmad Noorani, a senior journalist with a local English daily, The News, was beaten up by unknown assailants in Islamabad. He received serious head injuries during the attack. Thankfully he has since recovered and is out of danger but the real danger still lurks in the shadows. Not just for Noorani but for all others who may have crossed some 'red lines' drawn by the powerful forces.

As Dawn noted in its editorial post-Noorani attack: "The s…

Shifting towards the Right

Pakistan has no dearth of bigots but if bigotry had a name, it would have been Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar Awan. He is not just an ordinary member of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz; he is also the son-in-law of the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. On Tuesday, Captain Safdar turned the National Assembly of Pakistan into a hate speech centre. His vitriol against the Ahmadiyya community was disgusting and dangerous at the same time.

Less than a year ago, Nawaz Sharif, the then premier, had renamed the Quaid-i-Azam University's physics centre after Professor Abdus Salam, Pakistan's first Nobel laureate and an Ahmadi. Captain Safdar had the gall to demand that this be undone. "These people [Ahmadis] are a threat to this country, its Constitution and ideology," said Safdar. He further went on to say that he wants to table a resolution in the Assembly asking for a ban on the recruitment of Ahmadis in the armed forces. Maybe he has forgotten the names of several bra…

Freedoms and sport

Gauri Lankesh's brutal murder earlier this month jolted India and its media in a way we have not seen before; probably because most Indians take their freedoms for granted. Journalists in Pakistan have seen various ups and downs when it comes to media freedom and in spite of a seemingly 'free' and outspoken media, we know very well what self-censorship means and how to exercise caution. We in Pakistan do not take our freedoms for granted because we have seen the rise of right-wing extremism and terrorism over the decades. We know our freedoms can be snatched away in one fell swoop.

I wrote a piece on Gauri's murder for an Indian publication recently. Some Indian readers asked if I even knew her for me to comment on her death. It is as if some Indian readers just did not like that a Pakistani was telling them what media freedom means and how they must fight the obscurantist forces threatening their freedoms. No, I did not know Gauri Lankesh personally but her murder som…

Gauri Lankesh: The view from Pakistan

Journalists in Pakistan are no strangers to danger. Last year, Pakistan was declared the fourth most dangerous country in the world for journalists in a report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Yet it does not deter many a brave journalist from taking risks and reporting things that can definitely land them in hot water. Some in the Pakistani media still report on issues that many consider taboo or dangerous but only because we do not take our freedoms for granted; Pakistani journalists have fought tooth and nail for these freedoms.

We have all sorts of enemies – be it the state, religious extremists, terrorists and/or mafias, among many other faceless entities. But it’s not just the journalists who are at risk: our society has changed over the years; intolerance is now so widespread that sometimes one tends to become extremely cautious even in a private setting. I see something of the same sort happening in India…albeit at a slower pace but it is still happening.