In Defense of LUBP: Protect Freedom of Expression of Pakistani Bloggers – by Shaheryar Ali


Shaheryar Ali

Source: Sherryx’s weblog

It’s a very sorry state of affairs. For more than 2 years now I have been writing about the dangers of “intellectual hegemony”, “selective radicalism” and “double discourse on Rights” being prevalent in Pakistani corporate media as well in Pakistani blogging community. The Pakistani blogging community though is generally better than the media corporations but unfortunately is plagued by the same myopic intolerance when it comes to any dissenting views regarding the myths about Pakistan, its origin, its democracy and its national interests as defined by Right-of center media guru or a section of ex-Stalinists now turned liberals or centrists intellectuals.

The freedom of expression always is the freedom to express views which are deemed controversial. The demand for freedom of expression always arises for the marginalized opinion, one which is not acceptable to the state, rulers, moral vanguard of the society etc. It’s precisely this very right to differ, to challenge the dominant views that creates the issue of freedom of expression in the first place. Its so because, any other opinion one which operates within the realms of what is “acceptable” to the society or state in never in danger of suppression. Noam Chomsky for example points out that if we conceive freedom of expression as something for opinions which are acceptable than even Hitler was in favor of such freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is explicitly the freedom to be able to differ; to express opinions deems offensive, those which challenge the “fashionable conformities” weather political, nation or social in origins.

hamid-mir-media-bullyFew days back we saw one of the most heinous witch hunts in intellectual history of Pakistan. It started with attacks on the section of Pakistani columnist who have a Left wing background and who took a stand in support of democratic transition in Pakistan and tried to put forward a different perspective on Judicial Movement, war on terror and media activism. These people are a very tiny minority within Pakistan’s booming media business. Their view by no stretching of imagination can be called a dominant view in Pakistani media. The friction between these intellectuals and their opponents on the right side of political spectrum are ideological tracing its roots in the right-left polarization in Pakistan during 60s and 70s. The few left wing intellectuals who have survived the McCarthyist witch hunts by state and owners of media houses are now being put on media show trials by Pro-Taliban and Pro-Army TV anchors and columnists. Every abuse and every allegation from being an alcoholic to being a traitor have been put on them.

What these people themselves have been doing in media is nothing but shameless propaganda in name of news coverage. Mr Haroon Rashid who is on the forefront of this witch hunt against the tiny progressive element in Pakistani media , has been distorting facts and history in his columns but with a shameless face gives lectures about “modesty” and “tolerance’ to the victims of these witch hunts. I can go on and on about his academic honesty but I find it waste of my time. Simple two things can expose his dishonesty. In one of his Mccathry inspired columns against the socialist/ex-socialists intellectuals he shamelessly wrote that “Reds opposed Pakistan, once it came into being they never get out of shock”. It’s a shameless blatant lie. Communist Party of India and the Progressive Writers Association supported the demand of Pakistan. They even collaborated with Jinnah, the election manifesto of ALIML in 1946 elections was written by a communist Danial Latifi and many communists joined Muslim League as policy. Ironically it was the mother party of Mr Haroon Rashid Jamate Islami opposed Pakistan and Maudaudi compared it to “cooking of Pork” but Pakistani right forgets these historical details. After that I remember reading one of his columns against the great Urdu poets Ahmad Faraz. Every abuse and every label that Mr Rashid could think on was put on the great poet who recently died. In order declare Faraz infidel and traitor Mr Rashid quoted a verse which questioned the validity of divine revelation. Taking on the verse Mr Rashid went on and on to condemn Ahmad Faraz to great extant. What was ironic was the simple fact that the verse was not of Ahmad Faraz but of another progressive poet Mr Zaheer Kashmiri. Mr Aser Chohan wrote a column to clear the facts but Mr Haroon Rashid never had the decency to either apologies or retract the defamatory remarks.

Hamid Mir, who sadly has become a stain on the name of his great father, Prof. Warris Mir who was himself a victim of Jamate islami sponsored witch hunt in the 80s has taken this witch hunt to new heights. On his popular programme The Capital Talk he and Mr Ansar Abbasi , the pope of pro-Taliban media establishment took on the blog“Let US Build Pakistan” and put baseless allegation on it without any evidence. The language they used rings bells of alarm to anyone who is familiar with these crooks and their methods. It was said that the “blog is trying to create misunderstandings between Army and Media”. This is an open threat. It was said the blog is being run from presidential palace .etc etc. This is the most absurd thing which I have ever heard. Who has given these people the right to put baseless allegations without giving any proof? Let US Build Pakistan for the whole period of Lawyers Movement kept supporting the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan, even when the PPP government was using delaying tactics. The photograph of his lordship the most honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Chuadhry was prominently and permanently on display on side bar of the web site with explicit declaration: “This blog supports the restoration of deposed judges”. I bet this also came from the presidential palace?

Will Mr Chief Justice take any interest in the law of Press council and rules of engagement by the media barons? Or every ones name, reputation and character is at the will of this anchrocracy? The Pakistani blogging community had previously suffered the attack by state during the 3rd November emergency rule by General Pervez Musharaf . No one knows better about “right to dissent” than the lordship who himself exercised it in front of General Pervez Musharraf. Let Us Build Pakistan is a blog which openly supports Pakistan Peoples Party; it has never claimed to be an “independent news source”. They have explicitly mentioned their ideological ties with the largest and the only federal party of Pakistan. Last time I checked right to support Pakistan Peoples Party was not declared a crime in Pakistan. Anyone has the right to disagree with “Let US Build Pakistan” and “Pakistan Peoples Party” but no one has the right to spread disinformation. What was done on Geo TV was libelous defamation. People of Pakistan have a constitutional right to support and join any political party and to express views in its support. I would appeal to all people of conscience to support right of Let US Build Pakistan blog to express their opinion in a threat free environment.

What was most insensitive was the reaction of the Pakistani blogging community. Nothing of solidarity was observed. Pakistan Peoples Party and its support many be “out of fashion” in the class which blogs but let me tell my community that if right to have an opinion became focus of media witch-hunting none will be spared, not even the self proclaimed secular nationalists of Pakistan who are rabidly anti PPP and anti Left. The right may be busy focusing on PPP and a wider anti-PPP ideological alliance appears to be in place but as PPP govt goes many of you will be the target as well. Let US Build Pakistan is remarkable blog in many respects. It has shown remarkable strength on issues on which many of us shy away

1) This blog took a early and bold stand against Talibanization and sectarianism

2) This Blog took a conscientious stand on rights of Pakistani Miniorities

3) This blog showed a remarkable strength of conviction and conscience when it supported the restoration of judiciary against wishes of many in the Party whom they support. [I for example who is writing this article to support Let Us Build Pakistan was and is critical of lawyers movement and judiciary but this never came in way of either me or Let Us Build Pakistan]

4) This blog is pioneer in “Media Criticism” and has frequently demonstrated the “ideological biases” of Pakistani media hence upheld the fundamental right of people of Pakistan to un biased and/or alternative news and opinions

5) This blog has taken a democratic stand in support of marginalized groups and nationalities of Pakistan

6) This blog has covered the silent anti-Shia genocide taking place in Pakistan which finds no coverage any where,

I want to tell that I am proud of Abdul Nishapuri and the team ofLet Us Build Pakistan, for being brave and for writing what they believe in. I also congratulate them for openly declaring them to be supporters of Pakistan Peoples Party unlike their detractors the Hamid Mirs, Shahid Masoods and Ansar Abasais who don’t have the moral courage to openly declare their political allegiance and wear the masks of being “independent” analysts and doing overtly political propaganda. I will only say to them what has been declared “greatest punch line in history of America”, it was in one of the “anti-communist hearings during McCarthy’s witch hunt. “Have you no decency Sir—-”

I would like to salute the bloggers who raised their voice in support of Let Us Build Pakistan, Rabia Shakoor, Umair Wasi and Pakistan Media Watch.

To my fellow bloggers who are indifferent and silent at plight of a blog which they don’t like because it supports PPP and Zardari and is critical of Army and agencies etc I will just say dear friends, today it is Nazir Naji and Lets Us Build Pakistan, who will be next think about it——–

Ode to Pakistani Bloggers, the poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller the poem which has become the greatest indictment of inactivity of German Intellectuals during Nazi regime.

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me”

The links to various articles on this issue can be reached here, here and here. here

Geo TV and Selective Freedom of Expression.

To what extant these Media Jihadis can Go and scale of abuse read this article in Saudi Gazette.

One response to “In Defense of LUBP: Protect Freedom of Expression of Pakistani Bloggers – by Shaheryar Ali”

  1. Comments from LUBP old website:

    skunk said…
    true indeed… but as long as government shies away from officially acknowledging secularism as their main policy, their is little that can be done. The crux of these arguments is the denial of PPP policies on the pretext that it was voted in power on a different manifesto. When you blush at being who you are, what can you epect from the likes of Hamid Mir and Haroon Rasheed.

    10 NOVEMBER 2009 01:50
    Addu said…
    When left wing desi angrez can bully in english papers like DAWN,The NEws and Daily Times about right wing guys then why cant right wing says against left wing extremist?

    Clean your backyard first before you step out to lecture others.

    10 NOVEMBER 2009 04:15
    Aamir Mughal said…
    Left Wing or Right Wing

    Biased & Anti Pakistan Journalist on GEO TV/Jang Group

    GEO TV particularly Dr Shahid Masood and Saleh Zaafir have no shame while giving introduction of American Journalist Seymour M Hersh of The New Yorker magazine USA , they praised him [Daily Jang Internet Edition ]. Not only that Saleh Zaafir also praised Dr Shahid Masood as a Noted Intellectual of Pakistan who has invited a Journalist for a live TV Show who as per Foreign Office ” American journalist Seymour Hersh, had quoted “anonymous and unverifiable sources” for his assertions and article, ‘Defending the arsenal – In an unstable Pakistan can nuclear warheads be kept safe’, amounted to “nothing more than a concoction to tarnish the image of Pakistan and create misgivings among its people”. He said Seymour Hersh was known for his anti-Pakistan bias and for writing “sensational stories premised in far-fetched and imaginary scenarios. His latest article is no exception and is, therefore, strongly rejected.” No deal with US on security of N-arsenal: FO Dawn Report Monday, 09 Nov, 2009 | 07:53 AM PST


    10 NOVEMBER 2009 04:30
    Aamir Mughal said…
    Ghairat Brigade.

    Just look at Jang Group and GEO TV that for the sake of Zardari Hate Campaign, the Jang Group is praising a Journalist who spit venom against Pakistan, the reason of today Meray Mutabiq in the afternoon [live today 10 Nov 2009] is because Seymour’s interview carry some Harsh Comment of Musharraf [whose Treason Trial was on the wishlist of Jang Reporters] against Zardari.

    Yet, just look at the shenanigans of the newest godfather of the ‘Ghairat Brigade’: “I said to the Americans, ‘Give us the Predators.’ It was refused. I told the Americans, ‘Then just say publicly that you’re giving them to us. You keep on firing them but put Pakistan Air Force markings on them.’ That, too, was denied” — Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, former chief of the army staff, Pakistan Army, in a most recent interview with Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker. I ask you!
    Where is the ‘Ghairat Lobby’ now when Musharraf’s subterfuge to trick the Pakistani nation has been made public: whilst going all the way with the Americans in allowing the drone attacks, asking them to camouflage their drones in PAF colours. Yet his acolytes have the gall to put the blame for drone attacks entirely on the present lot? The Commando has also had (one of his) comeuppance(s), however. Asked if he had met any senior Obama administration official, he said, “I did not ask for a meeting because I was afraid of being told no.” Well, serves him right. A promise kept and the ‘Ghairat Brigade’By Kamran Shafi Tuesday, 10 Nov, 2009

    High-level coöperation between Islamabad and Washington on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal began at least eight years ago. Former President Musharraf, when I interviewed him in London recently, acknowledged that his government had held extensive discussions with the Bush Administration after the September 11th attacks, and had given State Department nonproliferation experts insight into the command and control of the Pakistani arsenal and its on-site safety and security procedures. Musharraf also confirmed that Pakistan had constructed a huge tunnel system for the transport and storage of nuclear weaponry. “The tunnels are so deep that a nuclear attack will not touch them,” Musharraf told me, with obvious pride. The tunnels would make it impossible for the American intelligence community—“Big Uncle,” as a Pakistani nuclear-weapons expert called it—to monitor the movements of nuclear components by satellite. ANNALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY – DEFENDING THE ARSENAL – In an unstable Pakistan, can nuclear warheads be kept safe? by Seymour M. Hersh NOVEMBER 16, 2009

    10 NOVEMBER 2009 05:31
    Aamir Mughal said…
    Seymour M Hersh, Shaheen Sehbai & Asif Ali Zardari.

    Dr Shahid Masood and Muhammad Saleh Zafir of Jang Group of Newspapers have been praising Seymour Hersh and producing his live interview on 10 Nov 2009 because there are some negative comment of Musharraf on Zardari in Seymour’s article DEFENDING THE ARSENAL – In an unstable Pakistan, can nuclear warheads be kept safe? by Seymour M. Hersh NOVEMBER 16, 2009

    Shaheen Sehbai, Dr Shahid Masood and Muhammad Saleh Zafir are forgetting the fact that Seymour Hersh’s older columns/reports have completely involved Pakistan Army/ISI in the Acts of Terrorism in Iran:

    Target Iran: Former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter and Investigative Journalist Seymour Hersh on White House Plans for Regime Change December 21, 2006

    Preparing the Battlefield by Seymour M. Hersh. Annals of National Security Source: The New Yorker

    There are two tags on my blog namely Seymour M Hersh and Scott Ritter [Former UN Weapon Inspector] please click on their names and watch their lecture and interviews on US Involvement in Iran for Regime Change. I would request EVERYBODY to upload these Lectures/Interviews SO TO ENABLE ALL PAKISTANIS TO AVOID BEING TRAPPED IN CIA GAMES.

    10 NOVEMBER 2009 06:02
    Arsalan said…
    @Aamir Mughal
    Get your facts rights and you should get the stats how many drone attacks were there during Musharraf’s period and how many during Zardari’s government. You will get the answer who has given free hand to the US and who restricted it. Government is supporting KLB against wishes of all the Pakistanis, US propoganda in the name of VOA is being transmitted to uneducated people, Black Water is here in Pakistan and you are asserting that current government is clean & it was Musharraf who bended at feet of the US?

    10 NOVEMBER 2009 06:12
    Aamir Mughal said…
    Arsalan Sahab, you should get your facts right!

    9 -11 & Said Bahaji: Right under the Nose of Bush, Musharraf and Mahmud.

    Pakistan’s chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad “was in the US when the attacks occurred.” He arrived in the US on the 4th of September, a full week before the attacks. He had meetings at the State Department “after” the attacks on the WTC. But he also had “a regular visit of consultations” with his US counterparts at the CIA and the Pentagon during the week prior to September 11. REFERENCE: Cover-up or Complicity of the Bush Administration? The Role of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence (ISI) in the September 11 Attacks by Michel Chossudovsky Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), Montréal Posted at 2 November 2001


    10 NOVEMBER 2009 07:37
    Aamir Mughal said…

    In the afternoon, Mahmood was invited to CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia, where he told George Tenet, the CIA director, that in his view Mullah Omar, the Taliban chief, was a religious man with humanitarian instincts and not a man of violence! This was a bit difficult for the CIA officials to digest and rightly so as the Taliban’s track record, especially in the realm of human rights, was no secret. General Mahmood was told politely but firmly that Mullah Omar and the Taliban would have to face US Military might if Osama Bin Laden along with other Al-Qaeda leaders were not handed over without delay. To send the message across clearly, Richard Armitage held a second meeting with Mahmood the same day, informing him that he would soon be handed specific American demands, to which Mahmood reiterated that Pakistan would cooperate. {Bush at War by Bob Woodward, published by Simon & Schuster, 2002, New York}, p 32. {Pakistan: Eye of the Storm by Owen Bennett Jones, published by New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002}, p. 2.

    General Mahmood on September 13, 2001, was handed a formal list of the US demands by Mr. Armitage and was asked to convey these to Musharraf and was also duly informed, for the sake of emphasis, that these were “not negotiable.” Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, and the assisstant secretary of state, Christina Rocca, had drafted the list in the shape of a “non-paper”. It categorically asked Pakistan:

    Stop Al-Qaeda operatives coming from Afghanistan to Pakistan, intercept arms shipments through Pakistan, and end ALL logistical support for Osama Bin Laden.

    Give blanket overflight and landing rights to US aircraft.

    Give the US access to Pakistani Naval and Air Bases and to the border areas betweeen Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    Turn over all the intelligence and immigration information.

    Condemn the September 11 attacks and curb all domestic expressions of support for terrorism.

    Cut off all shipments of fuel to the Talibans, and stop Pakistani volunteers from going into Afghanistan to join the Taliban. Note that, should the evidence strongly implicate Osama Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda Network in Afghanistan, and should the Taliban continue to harbour him and his accomplices, Pakistan will break diplomatic relations with the Taliban regime, end support for the Taliban, and assist the US in the aforementioned ways to destroy Osama and his network.

    Having gone through the list, Mahmood declared that he was quite clear on the subject and that “he knew how the President thought, and the President would accept these points.” {Bush at War by Bob Woodward, published by Simon & Schuster, 2002, New York}, p 58-59. Interview: Richard Armitage, “Campaign Against Terror,” PBS (Frontline), April 19, 2002}

    Mahmood then faxed the document to Musharraf. While the latter was going through it and in the process of weighing the pros and cons of each demand, his aide de camp that Colin Powell was on the line. Musharraf liked and respected Powell, and the conversation was not going to be a problem. He told him that he understood and appreciated the US position, but he would respond to the US demands after having discussed these with his associates. Powell was far too polite to remind him that he in fact was the government, but did inform him that his General in Washington had already assured them that these demands would be acceptable to the government of Pakistan. {Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism : Allah, the Army, and America’s War on Terror by Hassan Abbas, published by An East Gate Book , M.E. Sharpe Armonk, New York. London, England.}.

    10 NOVEMBER 2009 07:39
    sherryx said…
    though i would never respond to anyone with Swastika on but i agree PPP should openly declare ints intention to make Pakistan a secular state. but your comments are not very relavant to the article. i didnt discussed PPP policies in it

    desi angerz behter he Hazrat abul ala Maudadui ku keh den , ye tu apku yad ho ga mosoof kahan ja kur marre the, Amerki ke haq mein unka fatwa mojood he, Syed Munawer Hassan ya Qazi Hussein Ahmed ku keh dein who send their sons to USA and sons of poor Pakistanis to Jihad to died. Qiba mohterm jin ne dollar jihad kiya tha, iss azeem laqab ke wu ziyada haqdar hein.
    baqi as liberal view is minority view what they say is not bullying. t
    ap ke bus ki baat nahi lagti ye facts wagera , ap cricket hi dekha karen