Pakistan News

Who’s the real enemy?

Who’s the real enemy?

ONE speech does not a nation change and given this country’s fraught history with religious extremism, the prime minister’s address on Wednesday needed to be followed immediately with firm and decisive action.

Unhappily, the PTI government’s flicker of resolve appears to have been extinguished overnight and a familiar set of excuses and justifications have been deployed to once again coddle and accommodate violent religious extremists.

Where a firm line needed to be drawn, obfuscation, pretence and denial have been delivered. At the heart of the state’s vacillating response appears to be confusion or perhaps rejection of the foundational values of this country.

Also read: Jinnah’s Pakistan?

Pakistan was meant to be and shall one day be a tolerant, progressive, inclusive and modern country. That was the vision of the founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah and it is to his vision that the state ought to look for guidance and direction.

Instead, there is a tendency among elements in the state to do the opposite of what this country needs.

Contrast the state’s actual response to the violent protesters in the streets to what others have been subjected to.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in his address to the nation directly mentioned the preposterous and unacceptable accusations and threats the protesters have made. From declaring justices of the Supreme Court to be liable for death to saying the COAS was a non-Muslim and calling for a mutiny in the armed forces, the protesters have committed any number of crimes against the Pakistani state.

But their reward is to be engaged in dialogue for the — alleged — greater good of the country.

Yet, the mainstream media here has found itself under ferocious attack simply for doing its job and reporting events, facts and information. Editors have been threatened; the distribution of newspapers disrupted; news channels taken off air or consigned to anonymous slots; and, preposterously, a staff member of this newspaper has been summoned by a high court in a treason petition.

The protesters are misguided, but democratic dissent and media freedoms are undermining state and society — the obscene contrast between the seemingly friendly treatment meted out to the true enemies of the state and those championing democratic and constitutional freedoms is on full display.

A dangerous tendency by elements in the state to cast legitimate, constitutionally protected dissent as a threat to the nation and national security, while always seeking to appease violent religious extremists needs to be confronted and lawfully challenged.

Today is the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. Across the world, the professional media has been under siege in recent times.

Yet, it is wrong to argue that Pakistan is necessarily part of that wave — the threats to the media here are rooted in a long-standing intolerance of pro-democracy, liberal and progressive voices and legitimate dissent.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2018

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