NationalVOLUME 14 ISSUE # 22

Might is still right in Pakistan

The principle of might is right is prevalent in Pakistani society, where powerful people, including politicians, feudal lords, religious leaders, businesspeople and bureaucrats are dealing with powerless people very harshly. They don’t have any fear of law in their minds while inflicting pain and torture on the poor people.

 

They are endeavouring their best even to silence all sane voices which are growing against their cruelty and corruption. They are even trying to control the media, electronic, print and social, to prolong their power and rule. If someone tries to expose their corruption, they are threatened, beaten and killed by members of the cruel group.

 

Fawad Chaudhry, Federal Minister for Science and Technology, slapped journalist Sami Ibrahim in the face at a wedding function in Faisalabad. The minister, shamelessly, admitted in an interview that he had slapped the anchorperson to teach him a lesson. Fawad Chaudhry said he had slapped the journalist because he had knocked the door of all government institutions for justice but no one heard him. He said he had approached the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and then the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), but to no avail. When suggested that he should have registered his complaint with departments concerned instead of taking law into his own hands, he replied that no institution had redressed his complaint, as unfortunately no department was working. The minister said he had been a victim of character assassination daily. He said there remained just two options: either to tolerate humiliation or teach a lesson to those who attack you.

 

The Ministry of Science and Technology also issued a statement regarding the incident. It reads: Chaudhry had “reacted after another person tried to wound his self-esteem. The incident should not be treated as a clash between two institutions but as a conflict between two individuals. To term a patriotic Pakistani and government office holder as an agent of enemy agencies is contrary to moral and journalistic ethics,” the statement said. “Along with protesting against (Chaudhry’s) actions, people must also ask Sami Ibrahim why he had trampled over a patriotic Pakistani’s self esteem,” it added.

The rift between Chaudhry and Ibrahim came to light earlier in June when the senior anchorperson had alleged that there were some members in the PTI, who were hatching a conspiracy against Prime Minister Imran Khan to remove him and to weaken the Pakistan Army. According to Ibrahim, “Fawad Chaudhry is among people who are conspiring against the government”. The minister also responded by using bad language against the anchorperson in his tweets. He also accused Sami of blackmailing him when he was the information minister. Ibrahim responded to Chaudhry’s remarks in his TV programme. He also accused Chaudhry of using state vehicles for personal purposes during his tenure as information minister.

 

The incident occurred in the presence of journalists Rauf Klasra and Arshad Sharif. A video of the incident has also been leaked to the social media. After the incident, Ibrahim lodged a complaint with the Mansoorabad police station in Faisalabad. But, so far, no legal action has been taken against the minister. In spite of the journalist community’s protests and PM Imran Khan’s call to Sami Ibrahim, Fawad Chaudhry is still performing his duties without any shame and fear.

 

Fawad Chaudhry is notorious for his bellicose behaviour. Many times, he has clashed verbally with journalists. But, now, the minister has used violence against a journalist. It shows that he is not fit for the job as a minister. Government ministers are supposed to stick to higher standards of patience, responsibility and dignity than the rest of us. There should not be any excuse for Fawad’s despicable and irresponsible behaviour.

 

Fawad’s ministry is trying to ensure that the incident should not be seen as a “clash between two institutions but as a conflict between two individuals”, which is absolutely wrong. Sami Ibrahim levelleved allegations against Fawad Chaudhry as a journalist. In response, Fawad Chaudhry used his official Twitter account to insult the journalist. It is the duty of the minister to take the journalist to the court, if he thinks the news is incorrect. But, the minister did not follow the legal path. Rather, he attacked the journalist physically to silence his voice.

 

In Pakistan, it is not a new thing. Many seen and unseen forces try to control the media, including electronic, print and social, with force and sometimes, through legal actions. According to a recent Pakistan Press Foundation (PFF) report, seven journalists and one media organisation owner faced legal actions in 2018, while 48 journalists have been deliberately targeted and murdered for their reports since 2002. Over 171 journalists came under serious attacks, 77 faced minor assaults. Eighteen journalists were arrested while 26 were detained. According to the report, 32 media houses came under attack while residences of 11 journalists were also attacked. The PFF also registered 130 incidents of censorship while the number of total cases monitored by it stands at 699. In 2018 and 2019, six journalists were killed. In the Reporters without Borders 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Pakistan ranked 142nd out of 180 countries- falling three places from 2018. Freedom Network, a media rights watchdog, has reported that more than 157 attacks on journalists between May 2017 and April 2018 were registered, 55 of them occurred in Islamabad alone.

 

At least 26 journalists have been killed in last five years in Pakistan while the murdered journalists and their families have received justice in only one of the 26 cases, and in the case also a conviction was handed down by a lower court, but the accused was able to get the sentence overturned at the high court level, says the report. The study reveals that newspaper journalists (18 of 26 killed) are three times more vulnerable than TV journalists (8 killed). The Punjab is the most dangerous province in Pakistan to practice journalism (8 killed) followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (7 killed). Print journalists are at the most risk of being murdered if they are based in the Punjab (6 killed) and KP (6 killed) and TV journalists, if they are based in Sindh (4 killed) and the Punjab (2 killed). The most murderers of journalists remain faceless and unidentified. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP), press freedom in Pakistan is deteriorating, even as murders of journalists decline. No doubt, a fall in the murder of journalists is good news. But the threat of attacks on journalists is still increasing.

 

Fawad Chaudhry’s attack on Sami Ibrahim will encourage other politicians to beat and humiliate journalists without any fear in the coming days. Interestingly, the minister has also charged his own government and state institutions for not giving him justice against the journalist. If he thinks the PTI government is not performing well, he should resign.

It is an issue which should be taken very seriously, if the state and the government want to protect journalists and freedom of the press in the country. But, unfortunately, the PTI government will not take any action against powerful Fawad Chaudhry who believes in might is right and personal vendetta.

On the other hand, the PTI government’s another Federal Minister, Faisal Vawda, also does not believe in the Constitution and institutions of Pakistan. He has publicly expressed his desire to “hang 5,000 people” in order to reform Pakistan. The purpose of the bizarre remark was just to attract and divert the attention of the people from their real issues. The ludicrous statement shows that the PTI government has no solution to the prevailing ills. The opposition claims PM Imran Khan and his government’s ministers are promoting intolerance in the country by threatening their opponents and journalists, which is a disservice to the country, its people and real democracy.

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