Reporters Without Borders, an international organization monitoring freedom of press, ranked Pakistan as 139 out of a group of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. Journalists in Pakistan are under threat and media outlets are chained. Journalists are fleeing the country after experiencing threats, kidnapping, torture and intimidation. The country’s most popular television channel, Geo TV, was forced off the air and distribution of Pakistan’s oldest newspaper Dawn disrupted only because it went against the deep state.
The publishing of a report in which Nawaz hauled the army chief on supporting terrorist groups led to internationally awarded Dawn reporter, Cyril Almedia, being charged with sedition and the Dawn distribution stopped.
During the recent visit of Bajwa, accompanied by Imran khan to the US, editorials critical of Pak in US papers meant to be published in their Pak editions ended up with blank spaces. At the height of peaceful protests by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) censorship of the media took a serious turn. Journalists were threatened, their articles and reports blocked, and the media warned against covering their movement.
In more recent days, the interviews of the former President, Asif Zardari and senior opposition leader, Maryam Nawaz, were pulled off the air as soon as they commenced. The Pak Government claimed that this had been done to prevent those who looted the country from defending their views. The reality was that these interviews would have opened the misdeeds of the deep state including its rigging and ‘selecting’ Imran Khan as the PM.It could also have led to exposing Imran’s own shady deals and properties abroad.
Such is the standing of Pak politicians that kidnapped journalist Taha Siddiqui, now in asylum in France, was instructed by the then Pak interior minister, SN Iqubal, to write to the Pak army chief apologizing and begging forgiveness, after escaping being kidnapped. Guzzling of the media is done by employing non-state actors under the control of the Pak army, who are tasked to target erring media personnel. Many vanish without a trace, while those who return maintain silence in fear. Most are warned and heed the warning, a few who dare to challenge are broken by force. All this while Imran Khan stated in the US during his interaction with President Trump that the Pak press has never been freer. Imran attempted to lie through his teeth, fully aware that directions to suppress the media are being passed by his Government on the orders of the army. While Imran was making his false statement, his own government was proposing establishing media courts, the first in the world, which is being objected to by theopposition and media houses claiming it was another step at arm twisting the media and ‘an attack on democracy’.
In present day Pak, their army has no choice but to guzzle the media, if it must survive as an organization while continuingto ensure the security and success of its business enterprises while protecting its reputation by denying informationof its true losses to its population.
Pak army business interests have ruined the nation’s economy. It is more interested in making money rather than defending the nation, a task which it has outsourced to jihadi networks at state cost. Their desire to push into unchartered waters had led to massive losses to the state, against which none can dare comment.
The latest is the decision by an international arbitration court to the Pak government to pay almost USD 6 Billion to Tethyan Copper Company after it rejected their leasing request for the Reko Diq Project in 2011. This was because their army enterprise, Fauji Foundation, desired to walk into the same. The country will pay, while someone will become the scapegoat.
The Pak army has lost in every action it has contemplated against India, whether it be 1948, 65, 71 and Kargil. It has suffered immense losses in every attempt. Even its attempts at fermenting terrorism in the valley has been largely suppressed.
However, by amending history books and changing the narrative, it has converted each defeat into a victory. Such has been the level of its success and power, that Musharraf, the architect of the defeat in Kargil, the man responsible for hundreds of Pak soldiers killed continued as the army chief and even became a dictator followed by the President. In any other democracy he would have been sacked.
In last few years, the losses in the two surgical strikes have beenkept away from the public. The terrorists killed have been buried or their bodies disposed, without even the families being informed about the loss of their kith and kin. It sought to hide Balakote and blocked entry into the region for almost two months, while it changed the outlook of the place. The truth was well known to the leadership as they only opened their airspace, which remained closed for fear of another strike, after five months.
Attacks by the Baluch Liberation Army (BLA) has been taking a toll on the Pak army. Almost daily there are attacks and casualties, which is blanked out from the media. The PTM movement is gaining ground in every rally, despite a media ban being imposed. Their demands are only seeking survival in a difficult environment. However, their success is becoming a nightmare for the deep state, which is compelled to suppress them as they accuse the army of fake encounters, enforced disappearances and planting of mines across the region. Recently, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) pulled up Pak on its handling of the Kulbhushan case. On every account it refuted the Pak stand. The vote in every case was 15-1, the lone dissenter being the adhoc Pak judge. However, to hide the rebuke, the Pak DG ISPR rushed to media houses immediately after the announcement of the verdict and gave the army version, which every newspaper and media house was expected to carry.
It was that Kulbhushan was not freed and would remain in Pak custody. This was claimed to be a victory. All educated media personnel were aware of the reality that the ICJ is ‘not a court of criminal appeal’ and could only assess if international norms were followed, which in its opinion were not. Thus, this loss was twisted, and all media outlets forced to project a negative narrative to the nation.
In Pakistan, their army has been responsible for the ills that the nation faces and the enmity which it has with its neighbours. It has only succeeded in this action by ensuring that the nation is made aware of what suits it and there is no media house which possesses the power to question its authority. For this it has no option but to guzzle the media.
(The author is Major General, Retd)