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Emergency rule in Pakistan means fear and outright intimidation for some

Canada Free Press columnist stands up to Pakistani intimidators


By —— Bio and Archives--November 9, 2007

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Hamid Mir(Editor’s note: In a special report today. Sky News singled Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, who is operating outside of Pakistan in order to send reports out all over the world, including to Canada Free Press (CFP) for his courage.  Mir, who predicted the instability headed Pakistan’s way through CFP last July, paid a huge price.  States Sky News: “The executive editor for Geo TV in Islamabad is Hamid Mir, a well-known and respected journalist in Pakistan, but one who has proved an irritant to the establishment here.  The secret intelligence police (ISI) have tried bribing and threatening him in equal measure.  Now they are turning to his family.

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“I am not scared for myself,” he told Sky News.  “But I have to think of my family.  I don’t sleep in the same place every night and now I am moving my family to a safe place” Being one of a number of Pakistani journalists warned that “The Army is the backbone of Pakistan.  Don’t try to damage it.  If you do, you and your family who have looted billions would be hunted down like rats,” Mir says: “I am a 24-hour journalist.  This is my bread and butter.  I cannot think for a minute that I will accept this pressure.  This is against my ethics.  So I have not accepted it and we are operating outside Pakistan and they can see our reports all over the world.  The channel (Geo TV) broadcasts via satellite to (the) UK, US and Middle East.  It is (the) only broadcast in Pakistan which has been disrupted.”  Concludes Sky News about Mir: “Tough words from a tough man.”)


Inside Pakistan: Sky Special Report

Emergency rule in Pakistan means fear and outright intimidation for some

By Alex Crawford

Police barricades are on many street corners
To the bulk of the population though, to all intents and purposes, life is carrying on here as normal.

The shops are open, the roads are full of cars being driven to work, the hotels are still functioning.

But at many street corners there are sandbags and soldiers with guns behind them.

The centre of the capital is virtually sealed off. All roads leading to President House and the Supreme Court are inaccessible.

The General has barricaded himself in. Even the army tennis courts which stand next door to the entrance to the Prime Minister’s residence are under guard.

You only have to scrape the veneer ever so slightly to discover normality is all a fa�ade.

The courts have ground to a halt. Half the country’s Supreme Court judges have been dismissed including the top judge, Iftikhar Chaudary who was asking uncomfortable questions about General Musharraf’s eligibility to stand for re-election as President.

Anyone who is arrested - and there are hundreds - simply disappear into the bowels of the system. You can’t get access to them, you can’t even find out information about where they have been taken.

In the five days since emergency rule, it seems the protests are growing but only very slowly and tentatively.

Up until now it’s been the beleagured legal fraternity which has been leading the charge.

Now we have seen Benazir Bhutto - the former Prime Minister and the leader of the PPP, the country’s largest opposition group has finally called her people out onto the streets.

She has said - much to the relief of many of her supporters that “the talks are off” with the General.

And she has thrown down the political gauntlet by challenging him to resign and take off his uniform by Friday November 9.

But, being the astute politician she is, she has given him another week to carry out her demands before she urges her people to take to the streets.

She has said they will start a long march from Lahore to Islamabad, several hundred miles away from November 13.

The Serena Hotel in Islamabad has turned into an international media camp with camera crews and journalists from around the world gathering to report on the turmoil in this geographically sensitive, nuclear-powered country.

There is a big contingent from America and Britain with all the main stations represented here but also France, Italy, Germany, Canada and of course Al Jazeera.

Reporting is difficult, but not impossible. The General has cut off the array of private television stations which used to broadcast here including the recently launched English-speaking Dawn news.

The ‘independent’ media which he said he encouraged and which he used to constantly refer to in his interviews and his news conferences, is now comprehensively silenced.

But the world has moved on since Musharraf first came to power in a coup in 1999 and the people of Pakistan are finding out the news through the internet.

The foreign journalists have so far been left alone. The Pakistani authorities instead are preferring to turn their attention to their fellow citizens. The journalists here face daily intimidation.

They are viewed as agitators of the trouble. So when the private channel, Geo TV broadcast live pictures of lawyers protesting about Musharraf sacking the top judge - this was way back in July - paramilitary police armed with guns and tear-gas canisters stormed their offices and fired off tear gas inside the newsroom.

When the Sky team visited the offices - now operating under emergency rule we found a resilient and brave bunch.

The executive editor for Geo TV in Islamabad is Hamid Mir, a well-known and respected journalist in Pakistan, but one who has proved an irritant to the establishment here.

He has good contacts which means he’s well informed and he’s not easily spooked.

The secret intelligence police (ISI) have tried bribing and threatening him in equal measure.

Now they are turning to his family. “I am not scared for myself,” he told Sky News.

“But I have to think of my family. I don’t sleep in the same place every night and now I am moving my family to a safe place.”

For those who cannot understand this anxiousness, read this excerpt from an email sent to Geo TV’s editor in chief, Mir Shakil ur Rahman.

“The Army is the backbone of Pakistan. Tell your hosts, your news reporters and transmission people to stop misleading Pakistani people, stop giving space to corrupt politicians and mullahs.

“The Army is the backbone of Pakistan. Don’t try to damage it. If you do, you and your family who have looted billions would be hunted down like rats.”

It goes on: ‘It will take just a few hundred people to smash your studios, offices, vans, etc.”

Many of the reporters are routinely followed home, have their telephones bugged, their homes ransacked and their families frightened.

Mr Mir said: “I am a 24-hour journalist. This is my bread and butter. I cannot think for a minute that I will accept this pressure.

“It’s against my ethics. So I have not accepted it and we are operating outside Pakistan and they can see our reports all over the world.

“The channel broadcasts via satellite to UK, US and Middle East. It is only the broadcast in Pakistan which has been disrupted.”

Tough words from a tough man.

Previous Articles written by CFP Columnist Hamid Mir
Pakistani flags removed from Taliban-held areas in Swat
A new threat to the war against terror
How Benazir played into Musharraf’s hands
The most wanted man in India
Musharraf conquered Washington, but not Pakistan
Captured by Hezbollah

 


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Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years’ experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com.

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