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Worldwide Locations

Democracy and Human Rights in Post-Coup Pakistan

Asma Jahangir (frontlinedefenders.org)

Asma Jahangir (frontlinedefenders.org)

People have said that the press is free in Pakistan. The NGOs are free in Pakistan. But my friends, the press is not free in Pakistan. The English press is free to a certain extent in Pakistan. The Urdu press is not free, which is accessible to the people. Can anybody in Pakistan today dare write against the fundamentalist forces of Pakistan? Can anybody in Pakistan dare write about friendship with India? Can anybody today dare write against a military role in India, in an Urdu paper in Pakistan? No. There is a self-censorship, and that self-censorship has to come with the presence of the military. There is a kind of an oppression when there is a military in a country. It is suffocating. Can anybody, can any NGO stand up to them and talk against fundamentalism, and there is not a phone call the next morning? What we are seeing is that the military is using these fundamentalist forces, because what are their demands, today? They have demanded end of reform to the blasphemy law. They got it. Next demand is that they should be a Shariat bill […]. There should be shariat in some areas, and that there should be treason cases against people like myself. These are the demands of the fundamentalists today in Pakistan. They have appeared time and again in the papers, and only three days ago our chief executive has addressed those demands by saying, "I have fulfilled the first demand. I do not know yet what the other demands are." They are in black and white in the paper. But these demands will have a way of reaching and getting momentum. And they do take their momentum. We have seen it in the past.

What I predict and I see today is that Pakistan is a directionless Pakistan. What I mean by "directionless" is that whenever there is even a poor democracy, there is a direction. There is a kind of policy which may not necessarily come from the very top, but does come from those establishments in Pakistan that actually do decide the fate of Pakistan. There is a policy of cleansing the progressive people, the progressive forces of Pakistan. So today, I find it ironic when people talk about fatalism of the Islamic leaders. I think it is fatalism by which so many of us live whom we describe to ourselves sometimes, for want of a better name, the progressive forces of Pakistan.

Thank you very much.

[applause]

Question: I do appreciate whatever you have said during your speech. I don't make a long comment, but little comments. Whereas you have touched about military leaders, you would have touched political leaders as well, and their failures; plus the failure of press, plus the failure of judiciary in Pakistan. They are equally responsible, as the military leaders are responsible for all the failures that are happening in Pakistan.

Now, I'm coming to the question. You have addressed everything, whatever at least we know. But my question is that yes, democracy, yes. Mujuhideen and jihad, these are the two words that are invented by the United States of America, the only superpower in the world. So these are not known internationally. America has invented these words when they needed it. My question is that yes, democracy. But can you tell us that we had democracy in the last ten years? From 1988 to 2000? If this democracy would have prolonged until March 2000, this Nawaz Sharif would have been the Khalifa or Amir-ul-Momineen [caliph] in Pakistan. These leaders were given government twice. Benazir came twice, and Nawaz Sharif came twice. All right blunders and failures the first term, but why in the second term? So can you just put some light on this?