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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.

Aftermath of a verdict

Is it 'game over' for Nawaz Sharif?


On July 28, another prime minister of Pakistan was sent home without completing his tenure. Mian Nawaz Sharif, a power premier and the only man to have been elected three times to this position, was disqualified by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Five-zero was the decision. The decision was not totally unexpected; the build-up to the decision had led one to believe that, one way or the other, the then prime minister was certainly in trouble.

The disqualification of Sharif was not on corruption charges related to Panama - those charges are to be probed by an accountability court now and an order has been given to file references in this regard - but on a debatable technicality related to his 'iqama' (United Arab Emirates work visa). Sharif had to step down because he was employed by his son's company, Capital FZE, as chairman of its board at a basic salary of 10,000 dirham per month from August 2006 to April …

“The court has upheld what the PM was saying all along” Dr Musadik Malik

Do you think the Panama verdict is in favour of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and the celebrations by party members are justified? If so, why did the prime minister not address the nation after the Panama judgement came out as had earlier been announced?

Dr MM: There was never a point in time when the prime minister announced that he was going to address the nation post the Panama judgement; we don’t know how this rumour started and why. He had already addressed the nation when he thought he needed to submit himself for scrutiny. And everyone was critical, asking why he had done this, why there was a need to speak to the people of Pakistan. But the PM felt he needed to come clean, to come to the people and tell them the entire story, and also to say he would submit himself for further investigation because he had nothing to hide. He also offered to present his family [for scrutiny] – even those family members who don’t live in this country, who live abroad, who are residen…

“Not a single judge has accepted Nawaz Sharif’s defence” Aitzaz Ahsan

There are many who feel that the PPP and its leadership’s recent statements against the PML-N are irrelevant in the current political scenario. How would you respond?

AA: First of all, if a party holds a majority in any one province, it cannot become irrelevant. So for the PPP to continue to hold Sindh will keep it relevant even though it may perform poorly in Punjab. In the federal system, the government of a province is sufficient to give the party an important place on the political stage and the PPP appears to be in no danger of losing Sindh. If it is returned with a majority from Sindh and a majority in the Sindh Assembly, it will remain relevant. The theory that it has become irrelevant to the political events and processes in Pakistan is probably based on its poor performance in the Punjab. But this is a Punjab-based analysis.

I believe that the PPP will take a share of the Punjab vote and representation. It is strong in some districts of southern Punjab. And the Nawaz governmen…

Silence of the Lambs

It is not often that we see Pakistan’s political parties avoiding comment on a matter of national importance, but General (R) Raheel Sharif’s new appointment to lead a 39-country Saudi military alliance is one such issue where many of them are keeping mum. Members of both, the ruling party – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – and the opposition – the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – were clearly hesitant to say anything on the record regarding this issue.

Newsline approached the PPP for comment, but received no official response from them. Some analysts believe this is because the PPP has reached a deal with the establishment and does not want to offend the military establishment by taking sides. While the PPP denies these rumours, the party’s silence on Raheel Sharif’s new ‘job’ does lead to speculation, especially in light of recent events related to Ayyan Ali, the return of Sharjeel Memon from Dubai, and the acceptance of Dr Asim Hussain’s bail plea by the Sindh High Court.

While…

Interview: Qamar Zaman Kaira

Why do you think the PPP was wiped out in the 2013 elections after being in power for five years? Why did it not do well anywhere except Sindh?

There are two dimensions to this. First of all, there was election management and manoeuvering. This is quite clear; both the PPP and the PTI have the same stance on this issue. Having said that, a perception was built, which wasn’t based on any reality. Sitting Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, a section of the media, and the Muslim League in opposition, acting as a troika, tried to create a [negative] image of the PPP, and they were quite successful in demonising the party. We did not pay much attention to the media, and unfortunately, we paid for it as people bought into all of this.

They say that we did not do anything; that we were an administrative failure; that we were busy looting this country. Now let’s look at Pakistan in 2008 when we came to power, and in 2013 when we handed over power to another government. This will give you a rea…