Tag Archives: Tahir-ul-Qadri

Not Fit to Print: An Insider Account of Pakistani Censorship

BY NEHA ANSARI

Imran [Khan], [Tahir ul] Qadri, and the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] are our best friends,” our weekly editorial meeting at Pakistan’s Express Tribune was (jokingly) told on Aug. 13, 2014, a day before the two political leaders began their separate long marches from Lahore to Islamabad, and plunged the country into crisis. “We know it’s not easy, but that’s the way it is — at least for now. I promise to make things better soon,” said the editor, who had called the meeting to inform us about the media group’s editorial policy during the sit-ins and protests that would eventually, momentarily paralyze the Pakistani government.

The senior editorial staff, myself included, reluctantly agreed to the orders, which came from the CEO, because our jobs were on the line. Media groups in Pakistan are family-owned and make all decisions unilaterally — regardless of whether they concern marketing and finance or editorial content and policy — advancing their personal agendas through the influential mainstream outlets at their disposal. A majority of the CEOs and media house owners are businessmen, with no background (or interest) in the ethics of journalism. The owners and publishers make it very clear to their newsrooms and staff — including the editor — that any tilt or gloss they proscribe is non-negotiable. As a result, serious concerns persist about violence against and the intimidation of members of the media. In fact, Pakistan ranks 158 out of 180 countries in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index.

Yet there is also a more elusive problem within the country’s press landscape: the collusion of Pakistan’s powerful military and the nation’s media outlets. I experienced this first-hand while I worked as a journalist at the Express Tribune during the recent protests led by Khan, the populist cricketer-turned-politician, and Qadri, a Pakistani-Canadian cleric and soapbox orator.

During this time, the owners of Pakistani media powerhouses — namely ARY News, the Express Media Group, and Dunya News — received instructions from the military establishment to support the “dissenting” leaders and their sit-ins. The military was using the media to add muscle and might to the anti-government movement in an attempt to cut Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif down to size.

The media obliged.

At the Express Media Group, anything related to Khan and Qadri were inexorably the lead stories on the front page or the hourly news bulletin. I witnessed polls showing support for Sharif being censored, while news stories on the misconduct of the protesters, along with any evidence that support among the protestors for Khan and Qadri was dwindling, were axed. While the BBC was publishing stories about how Qadri’s protesters were allegedly being paid and Dawn, the leading English-language Pakistani newspaper — and the Express Tribune‘s main competitor — was writing powerful editorials about the military’s role in the political crisis, we were making sure nothing negative about them went to print.

Day after day, my national editor told me about how he received frantic telephone calls late in the evening about what the lead story should be for the next day and what angle the article should take. First, we were told to focus on Khan. “Take this as Imran’s top quote,” “This should be in the headline,” “Take a bigger picture of him” were the specific directives given by the CEO. Shortly after, the news group’s owner was agitated that the newspaper had not been focusing enough on Qadri. We later found out that the military establishment was supporting the two leaders equally and the media was expected to do the same.

In their professional capacities, the editor and desk editors tried to put up a fight: they allowed some columns against the protests slip through; they did not extend the restrictions to publish against Khan and Qadri to the Web version of the newspaper; and they encouraged reporters to focus on the paper’s strengths, such as investigative and research-based reports. However, it was difficult for the staff to keep its spirits high with the CEO’s interference and his readiness to abide by the establishment’s instructions. To be sure, the dictates were never given to the senior editorial staff, of which I was a part, directly. They were instead relayed to the editor or the national editor (who heads the main National Desk) via the CEO and then forwarded to us.

People often speculate about the media-military collusion in Pakistan, but in the instance of the current political standoff in the federal capital, as well as the Geo News controversy — where the establishment was seen resorting to extreme methods, such as forcing cable operators to suspend Geo’s transmission and impelling competing media houses to publish news stories against Geo, to curtail the broadcast of the largest and most-watched television channel for accusing then-ISI chief Zaheer-ul-Islam of being behind the gun attack on Hamid Mir, its most-popular anchor — the media and the military worked hand-in-hand.

In most cases, it is common knowledge that the heavyweight broadcast anchors have strong ties to members of the military establishment, and they personally take direct instructions that are then conveyed to the owners of their respective media groups. This bias is often reflected in their coverage.

The anchors not only indulge in inaccurate reporting, but also shape political discourse against the democratically elected government and even the efficacy of democracy itself. Former Pakistani government officials have corroborated this by narrating their experience. One senior official told me: “Television anchors receive funds from the military establishment, if not the civilian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Today, all the Pakistani intelligence agencies and the military have media departments that ostensibly only disseminate background information and press briefings, but are actually guiding and managing discourses and the national narrative.”

And this narrative is pro-army. Consider one example in particular.

On Aug. 31, when Khan’s and Qadri’s protesters had stormed the Parliament’s gates, Mubasher Lucman, a television anchor for ARY News — now the most-watched TV channel in Pakistan after Geo’s transmission was illegally suspended — saluted the army during a live broadcast and invited the military to take over “and save the protesters and the country.” Earlier on Aug. 25, he welcomed the “sound of boots”(a reference to the military), as he had no sympathy for corrupt politicians who looted the country.

As if this was not enough, Lucman and his fellow anchors at ARY, some of whom are known to have strong ties to the army and the ISI, alsomade unverified claims on live television that seven protesters had been killed by riot police in the ensuing clash. (It was reported by other news outlets that three people had died, one by accident.) Moreover, when Javed Hashmi, the estranged president of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, came out in public on Sep. 1 to reveal how Khan was banking on the military and the judiciary to end Sharif’s government, Lucman slammed Hashmi, while his fellow anchor, Fawad Chaudhry, insisted that Hashmi had been “planted in [the] PTI”by the prime minister’s closest aides.

Hashmi, who is known for his principled politics and who has been tortured and imprisoned by the military over the years, made the claims about Khan in a press conference where he revealed that: “Imran Khan said we cannot move forward without the army…He told us that he has settled all the matters; there will be elections in September.”

Soon after this, we at the Express Tribune were instructed by the military to highlight statements released by the army’s Inter-Services Public Relations office about how it was not a party to the crisis. When the military was on the defensive, issuing rebuttals to Hashmi’s “revelations,” we saw the instructions lessen and the powerful institution backing off. Yet media discourse throughout Pakistan’s history has been influenced by the military, the most powerful institution in the country, or, in a few cases, has been strong-armed and intimidated by civilian heads of state until they were ousted by the military. There is a structural bias against democratic institutions and elected officials in Pakistan, and such a discourse has the not-unintentional effect of making the military seem like a better alternative, thereby reinforcing the notion that democracy does not work.

Continue reading Not Fit to Print: An Insider Account of Pakistani Censorship

Thanks To Imran Khan And A Sunni Cleric, Pakistan’s Democracy Is Under Threat

By Deedar Hussain Samejo, Forbes

Pakistan has been once again gripped by the domestic political crisis. Country’s fragile democracy is facing serious threats as cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Movement for Justice party, and Sunni cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, head of Pakistan People’s Movement party, along with their supporters, armed with clubs and batons, continue to paralyze the capital city, Islamabad, for more than three weeks.

Protesters led by Imran Khan, who believes that Nawaz Sharif is corrupt and became prime minister after rigging the May 2013 elections, and Tahir-ul-Qadri, who aims to abolish the current parliamentary form of political system and bring “revolution” in the country, have occupied the sensitive area of the capital city, bringing the normal diplomatic activities at a complete standstill. They are demanding nothing less than resignation of elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Continue reading Thanks To Imran Khan And A Sunni Cleric, Pakistan’s Democracy Is Under Threat

Imran Khan boarding the wrong train…as usual

By Omar

Our great leader has taken the pulse of Twitter and Facebook (or heard good news from on high) and has decided to throw caution to the wind and board the anti-GEO bandwagon.
Sadly, once more, he may be boarding the wrong train. The army’s ability to swing itself into the harness and give orders has been slowly but steadily weakening for years. Zardari’s successful tenure (successful in not falling to a coup) and the peaceful transfer of power to MNS were baby steps. A major Paknationalist media empire deciding its time to openly challenge the ISI after its reporter is shot (by the ISI or by someone else) is a bigger step (because it means serious sections of the ruling elite feel it is time they can do this). This is not to condone GEO’s method of making the accusation, or their odious past record of labeling others as thieves, traitors, etc. That is all condemn-able and has been condemned in the past and should be condemned now. But their willingness to do so still indicates that they perceived a power shift.
The deep state (and its useful-idiot supporters in the PTI fan-base) have since mobilized to teach GEO a lesson and to show them who is still boss…but it is not exactly going  as planned. It took a few days, but liberal fascists (a term GEO and Hamid Mir freely popularized when they and the establishment were on the same page) continue to pop up to question the army’s right to label GEO (or anyone else) as traitors. More significantly, MNS does not seem to be cooperating. Astute politicians like Zardari will soon get the hint (if they have not already got it) that there is not going to be a coup and its time to stand aside and let the ISI expose itself and its remaining supporters for what they are: people out of step with Pakistani political reality. (Look at the dozens or at most hundreds of people showing up to wave pro-ISI posters at rallies).

That leaves Imran Khan.

As expected, he has miscalculated. Thinking this whole sorry scheme of things entire may be wound up soon, he has boldly stepped forward (after waffling for a few days) and has now discovered that GEO is the enemy and he is ready to boycott them.
By doing so he stands ready to lose either way:

1. He is wrong and MNS and GEO both survive this episode, leaving him with abundant egg on his face after yet another failed “mobilization/revolution”.

OR

2. He has picked the “winning side” and the deep state will kill GEO and MNS (killing one without the other is not likely to be much help) on May 11th (the day Khan sahib and Canadian-gun-for-hire Tahir Ul Qadri are supposed to launch their campaign against this “corrupt system”). What then? He will find himself marked as a supporter of what will surely be Pakistan’s last and least successful coup. The inevitable disasters that follow will end his political career (and possibly more than that).

Read more » Brown Pundits
http://brownpundits.blogspot.ca/2014/04/imran-khan-getting-on-board-wrong.html?spref=fb

Battle for the Soul of Pakistan

By: Bruce Riedel

2013 will be a pivotal year in Pakistani history. National elections, turnover at the top military position and the denouement in the war in Afghanistan; all promise to make it a critical year for a country that is both, under siege by terrorism and the center of the global jihadist movement. The changes in Pakistan are unlikely to come peacefully and will have major implications for India and America. The stakes are huge in the most dangerous country in the world.

Pakistan is a country in the midst of a long and painful crisis. According to the government, since 2001 45,000 Pakistanis have died in terrorism related violence, including 7,000 security personnel. Suicide bombings were unheard of before 9/11; there have been 300 since then. The country’s biggest city, Karachi, is a battlefield.

One measure of Pakistan’s instability is that the country now has between 300 and 500 private security firms, employing 3,00,000 armed guards, most run by ex-generals. The American intelligence community’s new global estimate rates Pakistan among the most likely states in the world to fail by 2030.

Pakistan also remains a state sponsor of terror. Three of the five most-wanted on America’s counter-terrorism list live in Pakistan. The mastermind of the Mumbai massacre and head of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafeez Saeed, makes no effort to hide. He is feted by the army and the political elite, appears on television and calls for the destruction of India frequently and jihad against America and Israel.

The head of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar, shuttles between ISI safe houses in Quetta and Karachi. The Amir of Al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri, is probably hiding in a villa not much different than the one his predecessor was living in, with his wives and children, in Abbottabad until May 2011.

Pakistan also has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world, bigger than Great Britain’s. The nukes are in the hands of the generals, the civilian government only has nominal control. President Asif Ali Zardari has only nominal influence over the ISI as well; indeed it has conspired for five years to get rid of him.

Against the odds, Zardari has survived.

By next fall, he will have served five years, becoming the first elected civilian leader to complete a full term in office and pass power to another elected government. It will be a major milestone for Pakistani democracy. He has served years in prison and lost his wife to the terrorists who besiege the nation. He has often been called a criminal by many, including his own family, and the national symbol of corruption.

Yet, as president, he presided over a major transfer of power from the Presidency to the Prime Minister’s Office, even the titular national command authority over the nukes, to ensure the country is more democratic and stable.

The parliamentary election in the spring will be a replay of every Pakistani election since 1988, pitting Nawaz Sharif’s PML against the late Benazir Bhutto’s PPP. Needless to say, many Pakistanis are sick of the same stale choices. But the odds favour the old parties. Both Sharif and Zardari are committed to cautiously improving relations with India, keeping open ties with America and trying to reform the Pakistani economy. Both will have troubled relations with the Army.

The Economist has tagged Sharif as likely to do best. If he returns to the Prime Minister’s job for a third time, it will be a remarkable turn in his own odyssey.

Sharif was removed from the office in 1999 in an illegal coup and barely escaped alive, to go into exile in Saudi Arabia. His decision to withdraw Pakistan’s troops behind the LOC, during the Kargil war, prompted his fall from power; it also may have saved the world from nuclear destruction. It was a brave move. I remember talking to him and his family in the White House the day after he made the decision to pull back, you could see in his eyes that he knew Musharraf would defame him; but he knew he was in the right.

But many Pakistanis want a new face to lead their country. Out of desperation some are turning to Imran Khan to save Pakistan. The ISI is probably helping his campaign behind the scenes to stir up trouble for the others. He is a long shot at best. He is much more anti-American, anti-drone and ready to make deals with the Taliban, to stop the terror at home. Yet, he understands well that Pakistan is a country urgently in need of new thinking.

Whoever wins will inherit an economy and government that is in deep trouble. Two-thirds of 185 million Pakistanis are under 30, and 40 million of the 70 million 5 to 19 years old are not in school. The youth bulge has yet to spike. Less than one million Pakistanis paid taxes last year. Most politicians don’t pay any taxes. Power blackouts are endemic. Clean water is increasingly scarce even as catastrophic floods are more common. Growth is 3%, too little to keep up with population demand.

So, it is no wonder that the generals prefer to have the civilians responsible for managing the unmanageable, while they guard their prerogatives and decide national security issues. As important as the coming elections will be, the far more important issue is who will be the next Chief of Army Staff.

The incumbent General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was given an unprecedented three-year extension in 2010. He is the epitome of the Pakistani officer corps and the so-called ‘deep state’. Pervez Musharraf made him Director General of the ISI in 2004. It was on his watch that the Afghan Taliban recovered and regrouped in Quetta, Osama bin Laden built his hideout 800 yards outside Kayani’s alma mater the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad in 2005, and planning began for the Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Mumbai. He was DG/ISI when David Headley, the American serving life for his role in the 2008 attack, began his reconnaissance trips to Mumbai to prepare the way for 26/11. Kayani probably authorized the funds for Headley’s cover and travel. He is the first DG/ISI to become COAS. His term expires in September, 2013.

The history of civilians choosing Chiefs of Army Staff in Pakistan is not encouraging.

Continue reading Battle for the Soul of Pakistan

Pakistan – The soldiers’ dangerous itch

There are fears that the army is thinking of moving against the civilian government. That would be a disaster

IN MOST countries the sight of 50,000 devout Sufis riding into the capital in brightly coloured buses and lorries would not raise the spectre of military intervention. But so convoluted are Pakistan’s politics that the march led by Tahir ul Qadri is read by many as an indication that the army is planning another intervention in government (see article). If that happens, it will be a catastrophe for the country.

Mr Qadri, a cleric who served briefly as a politician under the latest military dictator, has recently returned from Canada and says he wants a “revolution” against the civilian government. He has emerged from nowhere, yet organised a march which arrived in Islamabad on January 14th—no mean feat, since marches are usually banned in the city—and which was broadcast non-stop on television. Pakistan’s many conspiracy theorists, encouraged by the country’s many conspiracies, suspect that he may be the army’s latest favourite to replace the politicians with whom the soldiers have lost patience.

Mr Qadri’s rise is not the only reason Pakistanis have to worry about the soldiers. On January 15th the Supreme Court suddenly ordered the arrest of the prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, over a long-running bribery scandal. The court, along with the army, has long been hostile to the government. There is talk in Pakistan of a “Bangladesh option”, a reference to a quiet coup in that country, engineered by the army in January 2007 and legitimised by the judiciary, leading to a two-year suspension of democracy in favour of unelected technocrats.

If the army were to try to get rid of the civilian government, now would be the time, for two reasons. An election is due this year, and a new administration with a decent mandate would be harder to bin than the tarnished Pakistan Peoples Party government of President Asif Ali Zardari. And this year, too, the chief of army staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, is due to step down. His term in office has already been extended; but he may wish to defer his retirement a little longer.

A recent Pew survey found that Pakistanis are the least enthusiastic about democracy among six Muslim countries polled. That is hardly surprising. After nearly five years of civilian rule, the country is in a desperate state. Terrorist bombings are horribly frequent. The latest, in Balochistan, killed 86 people (see article). The country’s politicians are venal, self-interested and chaotic. Its growth is feeble, its debt unsustainable and its tax revenues have collapsed.

Yet rather than being a solution to Pakistan’s problems, the army is a large part of the reason for them. Its frequent interventions contribute to corruption: politicians reckon they need to make money quickly. Its dominance distorts spending priorities: the government spends around ten times as much on defence as on education. And it undermines the country’s security: the threat of war with India provides a justification for army rule, which is why Pakistanis fear the recent flare-up on the border with India in which five soldiers died.

This could be its big chance

Pakistan could be on the verge of a breakthrough. If the election happens and if it is won by a coalition led by Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, then it will be the first time that an elected leader has served a full term and handed power to a successor. Such a peaceful transition would be a milestone in Pakistan’s journey towards democracy. It might even help the country get a decent government. It is to be hoped that Pakistan’s soldiers are not thinking of derailing the process. America, which in the past has shown a regrettable ambivalence towards military rule in the country, must make it clear that if they do they will get no support from Pakistan’s friends.

Courtesy: The Economist
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21569733-there-are-fears-army-thinking-moving-against-civilian-government-would

Qadri, the Brass, and the Judges Take on the Government

By: Aqil Shah

As the uproar in Pakistan this week shows, meddling in politics is a specialty of both the country’s judiciary and its military. There is a silver lining though. Pakistan’s two major parties — long enemies — have worked together this time to fend off the threat.

This month, Pakistan’s government is fending off a needless political crisis. On 14 January, Allama Tahir ul Qadri, a pro-military cleric turned revolutionary who once claimed to have a direct line to the Prophet Mohammad, marched into the capital with tens of thousands of supporters. He has since threatened to use whatever means necessary to implement his demands, which include the removal of the “corrupt” Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government, the disbandment of the current parliament, and the implementation of constitutional clauses that lay down strict financial, religious, and moral qualifications for election to parliament. The move follows on an unusual media blitz last month, during which Qadri took to the streets and airwaves to save the state by demanding the creation of a clean technocratic government backed by the army and the judiciary.

The timing couldn’t be worse. In 2013, Pakistan is expected to undertake its first transition of power from one elected civilian government that has completed its tenure to another. When the current government came to office in 2008, reaching that milestone had seemed unimaginably difficult. All of Pakistan’s previous transitions to democracy had been cut short by military takeovers. As the date for the handover neared, many Pakistanis had started to hope to avoid that scenario this time. As it turns out, though, even cautious optimism might have been too much. It appears that Pakistan’s powerful military, aided by an aggressive Supreme Court, might well have just put a spanner in the works.

Continue reading Qadri, the Brass, and the Judges Take on the Government

A Peaceful Islamic Revolution in Pakistan?

By: Malik Siraj Akbar, Editor in Chief, ‘The Baloch Hal’

A Pakistani Muslim scholar with Canadian nationality has announced to transform Islamabad into “the world’s biggest Tahrir Square” on January 14th ahead of this year’s upcoming general elections. Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, a cogent public speaker, has made an abrupt but a robust comeback in Pakistan’s politics after spending nearly five years in Canada. Qadri, previously an unpopular politician but still a cleric with a large following of religious disciples, is asking for electoral reforms prior to the next polls.

There are two fundamental problems with Qadri’s demand.

First, he has given an absolutely unrealistic ultimatum of mere two weeks to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (P.P.P.) to carry out vague electoral reforms, for example to ensure the election of ‘honest people’ to the parliament. In order to conduct these reforms, Dr. Qadri, while citing the Article 254 of the Pakistani constitution, justifies the postponement of the general elections which are expected to take place in May. The mainstream political parties, such as the P.P.P. and the Pakistan Muslim League of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, want to go for elections without any interruptions soon after the completion of the current term of the parliament because they oppose any kind of derailment of the democratic process.

Second, Dr. Qadri is asking for representation for the powerful Pakistani military and the politically active judiciary in the interim government, a demand that clearly clashes with the very spirit of democracy.

Continue reading A Peaceful Islamic Revolution in Pakistan?

Paknationalist Sufis

By: Omar

One regularly hears about the “moderate” sufis who will save islam or Pakistan (and who therefore deserve a quick injection of money…see how much Tahir ul Qadri is making via this route). But Sufi-ism is not a well defined ideology, anyone can be a sufi and almost everyone IS a sufi of some sort in Pakistan. Some innocents see positive implications of such confusion in the wider Islamicate world, thinking that this will weaken the Wahabi-Salafi vision of one folk, one leader, one law that seems so scary these days, though I dont see empirical proof of such assertions.  Anyway, that was not the topic I had in mind. I just wanted to post this link to “spiritual Pakistan”..a fairly typical and representative “Sufi Paknationalist” website. They are promoting “Ghazwa e Hind” (the weak hadith that supposedly promises a huge war in India, and victory and eternal reward for those Muslims who fight to conquer India) and they are much more ardent about it than the “evidence-based” Deobandis, who do have some standards and hesitate to make-up stuff on demand like the Sufis (“the sufis” meaning some sufis…keep in mind, there is no such things as “standards” when it comes to Sufis….an indophile like me is a sufi, a jihadi nutcase like Zaid Hamid is a sufi, Orya Maqbool Jan is a sufi. Its a free for all…its not better or worse, its whatever you want).

And if anything, “the sufis” promote blasphemy prosecutions more than salafists. Of course, many famous sufis also died for supposedly blaspheming something. Which is my point. Sufi can mean anything. Not just the hippie Islam that twinkles in so many Western eyes. ….

Read more » Brown Pundits

Nawaz Sharif with Tahir-ul-Qadri of Minhaj ul QURAN

Tahir-ul-Qadri was khatebb in Moddle town Lahore Mosque/ massjid (built by sharif family). In later years good friends become foes and then Dr. Tahir ul Qadri of Minhaj ul QURAN launched a campaign against Nawaz Sharif named ”go nawaz go” back in 90s.

Via siasat.pk

Courtesy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lkgB-d3DDY&feature=player_embedded