JK News Today

Jammu , January 14:

“ In 2021, the Pakistan government intensified its efforts to control the media and curtail dissent. Authorities harassed, and at times detained, journalists and other members of civil society for criticizing government officials and policies. Violent attacks on members of the media also continued.”  This is not a sentence drawn from any anti-Pakistan portal , this is  the opening paragraph of the Human Rights Watch report 2022 ,reflecting on the state of affairs of Pakistan in 2021.

This indictment of Pakistani  government “stifling dissent” is not restricted to media  alone, it  also has covered the way Pakistan treats its religious minorities and encourages a cult of violence against women and children. The HRW report noted with extreme concern : “ The authorities  expanded their use of draconian sedition and counterterrorism laws to stifle dissent, and strictly regulated civil society groups critical of government actions or policies. Authorities also cracked down on members and supporters of opposition political parties.”

“Women, religious minorities, and transgender people continue to face violence, discrimination, and persecution, with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators to account. The government continues to do little to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for torture and other serious abuses,” the  America based human rights watch dog observed .

A climate of fear impedes media coverage of abuses by both government security forces and militant groups. Journalists who face threats and attacks have increasingly resorted to self-censorship. Media outlets have come under pressure from authorities not to criticize government institutions or the judiciary. In several cases in 2021, government regulatory agencies blocked cable operators and television channels that had aired critical programs.

Several journalists suffered violent attacks in 2021. On April 20, an unidentified assailant shot and wounded Absar Alam, a television journalist, outside his house in Islamabad. Alam has been a prominent critic of the government. On May 25, Asad Ali Toor, a journalist, was assaulted by three unidentified men who forcibly entered his apartment in Islamabad, bound and gagged him and severely beat him. Toor said that they identified themselves as being from a security agency, interrogated him about the “source of his funds,” and took away his cell phone and other electronic devices. The government ordered an investigation into the incident, but no findings were made public. On May 29, the news channel, Geo, “suspended” Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan’s best-known television talk show hosts, after he spoke at a protest in solidarity with Toor.

Members of the Ahmadiyya religious community continue to be a major target for prosecutions under blasphemy laws as well as specific anti-Ahmadi laws. Militant groups and the Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) accuse Ahmadis of “posing as Muslims.” The Pakistan penal code also treats “posing as Muslims” as a criminal offense.