FINDRAZA : ANOTHER PAKISTANI ACTIVIST SILENCED

07 Dec 2017/Thursday.

A Pakistani peace activist Raza Mahmood Khan, aged 40 has been abducted from Lahore. He was a member of the Aghaz-e-Dosti (Initiation of Friendship) organization, and was known for his grassroots activism around the issue of India-Pakistan friendship. Khan had shared several posts that were overtly critical of or poking fun at the military in the days before his disappearance. The event in Lahore where Khan was last seen was organized to discuss the recent Faizabad protest over alleged blasphemy. Khan had expressed views that were “very critical” of the sit-in, the Reuters news agency reported.
Several social media activists who have been critical of the Pak’s military have gone missing in recent months. In January, four activists were released three weeks after being abducted from Lahore, the capital Islamabad and the central Punjab town of Nankana Sahib. Two of them Aasim Saeed and Ahmad Waqass Goraya later had alleged to Al Jazeera and in social media posts that they had been abducted, tortured and interrogated by Pakistani intelligence agents. Earlier in October, Zeenat Shahzadi, a 24-year-old female journalist who was investigating a disappearance case of an Indian national named Hamid Ansari, and was allegedly abducted by some armed personnel on 19 August 2015 suddenly surfaced.
As per reports of Amnesty International 40 journalists have been killed in Pakistan for their work since 2008. Dawn reported that, in the first seven months of 2016, there were 510 reports of forced disappearance in Pakistan. However, according to Amnesty International, the commission has so far received 3,000 cases of such disappearances. In early January 2017, five social media activists Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, and Ahmad Raza Naseer went missing from different parts of Pakistan. Also target killings of Hamid Mir (GeO TV), Raza Rumi, Abrar Tanoli etc in the recent past indicate an attempt to silence the independent voices that have been openly demanding the respect of Pakistani citizens’ including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, gender equality and most importantly, the right to protection from arbitrary killings and enforced disappearances. ISI has been regularly suspected of targeting and eliminating journalist/activists. Dozens of journalists have reported instances of harassment, intimidation or attacks at the hands of the ISI however; attacks on activists continue to go unpunished.

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FAIZABAD PROTESTS: PAK ARMY A GAINER OR A LOSER?

The recent sit in protests by ultra-religious parties at Faizabad, Pakistan, have catapulted two people, if not all, in bright lime light, first being Gen Qamar Bajwa, the chief of Pakistan Army and second person, Maulana Khadhim Rizvi the leader of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah.(TLYRA)

Army was requisitioned to contain the protestors as it was felt that the problem has gone out of the hands of police with six killed and more than 200 injured. However, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, DG ISPR, intimated the bureaucrats that Gen Bajwa is not in favour of using Army against own people and have told PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to avoid bloodshed. Army therefore preferred an agreement by convincing the Govt to agree to the demands of Maulana Rizvi. As a result an agreement was reached, brokered by Army with moot willingness of the Govt. This ended the protests and Mualana Rizvi showered Pakistan Army with unparalleled appreciations stating “Army saved the country from a big Catastrophe”.

So, Pak Army is perhaps on the ninth cloud and patting its own back for the job done well. They may be enjoying the feeling of being a saviour of the Govt, who were literally on their knees but their effort has not gone down well with majority of Pakistanis, who consider it trespassing and unwanted imposition on the civil governance rights

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, who has been very vocal about the whole incident, feels that all political parties in Pakistan must be careful of renewed efforts to use religion for the advancement of political agendas. Protestors arrested for unconstitutional sit-ins were finally let off as per the demand by clerics. As a result, in a first, putting their personal differences behind, key leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Awami National Party (ANP) have expressed concern over recent events in the country including military intervention in politics where religion is used to whip up political sentiment.

So, overall the Pakistan army has been a loser rather than a gainer in getting itself embroiled in a situation which is hinting towards a large hidden agenda by letting down the elected Govt in front of religious parties. TLYRA, having managed to come on top, with the help of Army & ensuring unconditional release of arrested protestors has perhaps identified the weakness of the system which they would like to exploit in future confrontations. This agreement, which may have been termed as master plan by army has given a very potent option to all other political or non-political parties to take on the Govt head on.  Furthermore Pakistani Army General distributing money to the protesters has further eroded the credibility of the Army in the various echelons of Pakistan’s public.