“Creeping Coup” takes place against civilian govt and media, says Farhatullah Babar

Islamabad Politics Report/Moazzam Raza Tabassam: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senior leader Farhatullah Babar has said that a creeping coup has taken place- far more softer and subtler than any previous coups- leaving a civilian government without powers and a media without freedoms.

This has been stated by former Senator Farhatullah Babar while speaking at a national seminar on ‘Elections 2018- threats to Freedom of Expression’ at the National Press Club in Islamabad on Tuesday.

The seminar was also addressed by Moulana Fazalur Rehman, Senator Pervez Rashid, senator Shibli Faraz, anchor Hamid Mir, journalist Afzal Butt and others.

Without seizing a single TV station the entire media has been brought to heel, Farhatullah Babar said. The vast damage done can be seen in the media exercising self censorship, the journalists threatened and abducted.

Not long ago a major tv channel mysteriously went off air in most of the country and newspapers owned by the group also disappeared from newsstands. Some columnists have resorted to twitter publishing as newspapers have expressed inability to publish their writings.

The Dawn Leak spoke of divergence in views in a meeting and soon thereafter paper disappeared from cantonments in major cities. Dawn TV came under pressure and the military’s commercial empire stopped placing ads with it. If Dawn report had indeed breached national security what about 17th Jan report in Times which published what was claimed to be an inside story of a military darbar, he asked.

Social media is under attack as online activists have been kidnapped and tortured and websites blocked. A recently launched Safe Newsrooms that publicizes media repression has been blocked, he said. He criticised the announcement that social media was being monitored for “anti-state, anti-Pakistan and anti-army” material and also naming some persons without proof. Within days  Gul Bukhari, was picked up and briefly detained, he said.

Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement demanding nothing but an end to disappearances and extra-judicial killings. Its activists have been harassed, accused of being manipulated and subjected to a near total media blackout, he said. Farhatullah Babar said that Cyber Crimes Act and the contempt of courts laws also needs to be revisited and a National debate on regulating the use of the suo moto powers under Article 184(3).

He proposed that media professional organise regional/international conference on “Dissent- Imperatives of Freedom of Expression” and Parliamentary committees should hold public hearings.

The growing distortion in civil military relations need to be addressed through a bipartisan parliamentary committee. Political parties should evolve a minimum charter of human rights and set up human rights cells within parties with focus on freedoms of expression, he said.

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