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Who’s afraid of Imran Khan’s Pakistan? Almost everyone.

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  • Who’s afraid of Imran Khan’s Pakistan? Almost everyone.

    On Friday evening I drove back home to Islamabad after covering Pakistan’s July 25 general elections from the eastern city of Lahore. As I fumbled in my purse for my keys, the front door rattled and I heard footsteps on the other side.

    “Madam, is someone else home?” my driver, Shaukat, asked. I live alone.

    I dialed the police emergency helpline and explained that someone was inside my house. Commandos brandishing automatic rifles soon arrived and entered my home, going from room to room, looking under beds and behind sofas.

    Nothing was missing. In the lounge, we found one window, which locks from the inside, open. One officer said that maybe the intruder had left through that window. “Or maybe some khalai makhlooq was here,” another one joked.

    He was using the Urdu word for “extraterrestrials” to suggest that I might have imagined the movements and sounds I was describing. The irony was lost on him: In Pakistan, khalai makhlooq is often used to refer to the army and its spy agencies, part of a rich political vocabulary born out of fear of openly criticizing the country’s most powerful institutions.

    These “aliens” have for years been accused of piling pressure on civilian governments to toe their line, of threatening and abducting journalists and human rights defenders who speak up against them, of “disappearing” ordinary citizens on terrorism or other charges without due process and, most recently, of helping to rig a landmark general election in which cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has emerged the undisputed winner.

    In the hours that followed, after the police left and friends arrived to comfort me, I thought back to the several phone calls I had received in previous days from “well-wishing” army officers warning me not to write against the army. I remembered the words of one brigadier who called me three times about a tweet in which I reported about the army’s blocking of Dawn, the country’s oldest newspaper, saying that my words had generated a lot of anger among my Twitter followers and that “if one of them takes matters into his own hands, you will have only yourself to blame.”

    But most of all, I thought about whether I had indeed imagined an intruder and whether my fear was unwarranted. But that was the point: An enduring sense of dread and paranoia at having crossed a thinly drawn red line, a fear of the unknown, is a reality for journalists who report on Pakistani politics, particularly on the power struggle between the military and civilian governments that is as old as the country itself.

    The threats, as shadowy as they may sometimes feel, are all too real. Indeed, the country that Khan inherits as prime minister is practically run on scare tactics.

    There is much in Khan to be afraid of. During his poison-tongued, invective-laden campaign, he pushed his supporters to the verge of war with news channels that criticized him. He has suggested that those who opposed him were “agents” of Pakistan’s archrival India and the “international establishment.”

    He has supported a draconian blasphemy law that has led to at least 69 vigilante killings since 1990. Day after day on the campaign trail, he started fires and fanned flames, calling upon his followers to suspend disbelief and vest faith in conspiracies. And for someone who has for decades asked Pakistan’s young people — 64 percent of the population is under 30 — to join his revolution to overthrow the corrupt old political order, he has been much too quick to partner with turncoat politicians, Islamist hardliners and power-hungry soldiers.

    Many have pointed to Khan’s mild-toned victory speech of July 26 to suggest that he was capable of grace and gravitas. But the fact is that his call for a more open, responsible foreign policy, even overtures to India and Afghanistan, ring hollow in the backdrop of years of peddling isolationism. His constant pandering to the religious ultra-right during the campaign and increasing support of conservative ideals suggest there is little reason to believe he is the person to lead Pakistan out of the clutches of extremism.

    If he has indeed come into power with the help of the military, and there is much evidence that he has, then it is likely that the military will want its pound of flesh. He will need its help in finding allies and cutting deals, and the military will want even more space to control foreign and economic policy (with a 1.1 trillion rupee defense budget out of a total budget outlay of 5.9 trillion, no one cares more than the Pakistan army about what happens to the economy).

    But if Khan is a genuinely popular leader who has surged into office because of a truly national following built on his cricket celebrity and appeal as an anti-corruption crusader, we can expect that he might want to be his own man and possibly stand up to the military. But even then, he must be very afraid to go the way of many former prime ministers before him: removed in a coup or marginalized using a combination of media and courtroom trials over corruption and sundry charges. In both scenarios, Pakistani democracy and Khan seem to be in imminent jeopardy.

    Indeed, the manner in which Khan has betrayed the trust of many of his party’s old guard across the country is proof that he is capable of intelligent, even cynical, calculations about how to acquire and exercise power. Thus it is expected that he will not butt heads with the military. And so, Pakistan’s imperfect democracy will trudge along imperfectly, the wheels of government continuing to turn on the erratic whims of the boys in boots.
    From the infidel Post
    Politicians are elected to serve...far too many don't see it that way - Albany Rifles! || Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it - Mark Twain! || I am a far left millennial!

  • #2
    Pakistan’s likely next leader is a Taliban sympathizer

    PAKISTAN’S PROBABLE incoming prime minister campaigned as a maverick challenging an entrenched and corrupt political elite. But Imran Khan, who on Thursday claimed victory in his country’s parliamentary elections, is not exactly an outsider. He is indeed an enemy of the major political parties that have dominated Pakistani civilian politics for decades — but he is also the favorite of the Pakistani military, whose overweening power the mainstream parties have been trying to curb.

    If Mr. Khan takes office, he will have the support of many Pakistanis who want to see reforms that distribute wealth more equally or that disempower the old political dynasties. But he will owe his position largely to the army and its powerful intelligence service, which helped him win so that they can more easily pursue their own interests — which include siphoning off the lion’s share of the national budget, supporting the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan and encouraging other extreme Islamist groups. That means Pakistan, which has been one of the most difficult countries for the United States to work with over the past two decades, is likely to become still more so.

    Though no official results had been announced by late Thursday, those reported by local media were close to what the generals were seeking: a solid lead for Mr. Khan, but not enough of one to allow him to form a strong civilian government. The risk for the winners was a popular backlash. So overt and heavy-handed was the military’s intervention in the election campaign, and so questionable the vote count, that some analysts predicted it could trigger sustained unrest. The former governing party of Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted from office by court order a year ago and imprisoned this month, said it would not accept the result.

    During his time in office, Mr. Sharif challenged the military’s control of foreign policy, including its insistence on permament hostility toward India and its sponsorship of terrorist organizations. His reward was to be singled out for prosecution on corruption charges. While he was probably guilty of amassing illicit wealth, the court judgments against him were orchestrated by the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, according to one judge of the Islamabad High Court. According to numerous reports, the military also bribed or intimidated members of Mr. Sharif’s party to switch their support to Mr. Khan and forced Pakistani media to tilt their coverage in favor of his campaign.

    Mr. Khan, a former cricket star and playboy who now portrays himself as devoutly religious and a nationalist, seems to have few foreign policy views other than antipathy toward the United States and its war on terrorism; he has endorsed the Taliban cause in Afghanistan. That suits the generals, who, since the Trump administration’s suspension of U.S. military aid, no longer much pretend to comply with U.S. demands to cease support for the group. Pakistan’s de facto rulers now seem to believe that their backing from China, which is investing tens of billions of dollars in the country’s infrastructure, gives them the freedom to pursue their baleful purposes more openly. Mr. Khan’s election is evidence of their renewed ascendance.
    From the editorial of the infidel Post
    Politicians are elected to serve...far too many don't see it that way - Albany Rifles! || Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it - Mark Twain! || I am a far left millennial!


    • #3
      I’m a journalist who fled Pakistan, but I no longer feel safe in exile

      PARIS — On Jan. 10, 2018, I survived an abduction and possible assassination attempt by armed men who stopped my taxi in the middle of an highway in Islamabad, Pakistan, when I was on my way to the airport. Luckily, I escaped. I believe the attack was orchestrated by the Pakistani army, which has been threatening me for years over my journalistic work on military abuses in Pakistan.

      Since the brazen assault, I have fled Pakistan with my wife and five-year-old son, and we now live in self-imposed exile in France. After the attack, several well-wishers told me that if I did not stop speaking about the Pakistani military, I would be shot dead the next time they came for me. So I decided to speak up from the safety of exile. But now, even in exile, I feel unsafe.

      I was in Washington last month for a conference organized by Pakistani dissidents in exile like me, when I received a call from U.S. authorities. I met with the officials, who told me they had intelligence about an assassination plot against me if I were to ever return to Pakistan. I was further advised to stay away from Pakistani embassies around the world and also Pakistan-friendly countries. Other Pakistani dissidents in exile have received similar warnings.

      The U.S. intelligence officials told me they believe that, after Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, repressive regimes such as the one in Pakistan have been emboldened to silence critics, not only at home but also abroad. It certainly seems that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who may have ordered the hit on Khashoggi, is going to get away with this murder, as the Saudi royals' global relations remain unscathed.

      When a journalist friend asked me to be careful after the Saudi journalist’s murder, I brushed it off by saying Paris, where I currently live, is safe. But then he reminded me of the killings of three Kurdish dissidents in the city in 2013, allegedly ordered by Turkish authorities.

      Now, after the warning I received, I once again fear for my life. Every time I leave my apartment, enter public places or simply walk on the streets in Paris, I am paranoid about being followed. Every time I stand on the subway platform, I fear that someone may push me on the tracks at the last moment.

      Since the warning by the U.S. agency, my family has been telling me to go quiet and forget about Pakistan. I remind them that the only reason I left Pakistan, where I had a stable job, a comfortable home and a strong journalism network, was so I could continue being the voice of those in Pakistan who cannot speak up.

      I have had friends murdered, disappeared and shot because they dared to challenge the powers that be. This past year was the worst year for Pakistani journalists.

      Hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs in recent months because of a financial squeeze that many believe has been orchestrated by the Pakistani authorities to teach independent media houses a lesson. With physical attacks such as the one on me and several others, fear has taken over the industry, resulting in unprecedented self-imposed censorship. A recent survey revealed 88 percent of Pakistani journalists exercise self-censorship.

      With the mainstream media muted, social media platforms have become an important outlet for those who still dare to speak truth in Pakistan. But even those platforms are now collaborating with the Pakistani authorities. Facebook is heavily censored in the country and Twitter has been sending legal notices on behalf of the Pakistani government to its users to remove objectionable content. I received such a warning, too. Also, following the Saudi playbook, Pakistan also deploys armies of online trolls to target target critics like me, warning us of fates like Khashoggi’s.

      Pakistan recently had elections, and a new government has come into power, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. His close ties to the military show he may not care for democratic norms such as freedom of expression.

      One year after my attack, the harassment, intimidation and threats have followed me abroad, too, and have forced me to think whether it is all worth it. As someone recently told me: If they are obsessed with silencing a journalist and his ideas, it probably means that his ideas are powerful and worth listening to.

      I believe powerful and independent ideas should not be given up, no matter what the cost.
      The infidel writes in the infidel Post
      Politicians are elected to serve...far too many don't see it that way - Albany Rifles! || Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it - Mark Twain! || I am a far left millennial!


      • #4
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        Naya Pakistan = Old Pakistan. Baton of the Army rules forever.
        Last edited by Oracle; 23 May 19,, 18:50.
        Politicians are elected to serve...far too many don't see it that way - Albany Rifles! || Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it - Mark Twain! || I am a far left millennial!


        • #5
          This withdrawal of state funding is tool that can be used in India too. Rajiv Gandhi tried to put out a defamation law to stem negative coverage as a result of Bofors but got beaten back when the media went to town over it.

          If the IMF is working out a deal with Pakistan then it stands to reason they will not be blacklisted by the FATF next month. They will likely remain on the grey list for a while longer.

          They will not be blacklisted because everybody is afraid of them (!)


          • #6
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            Politicians are elected to serve...far too many don't see it that way - Albany Rifles! || Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it - Mark Twain! || I am a far left millennial!