By Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Sydney Australia.
I wish to draw the world’s attention to a distressing development in Pakistan that demands collective awareness and support for democratic principles in the nation.
Since Imran Khan and his party leaders & workers launched the virtual/digital election campaign, the current caretaker government, in collaboration with certain establishments, has egregiously curtailed the basic freedoms and rights of the Pakistani people. The nationwide disruption of internet services, orchestrated by the illegitimate caretaker government, aimed to block the virtual election campaign by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the speech of Imran Khan through sophisticated artificial internet activity.
It is noteworthy that Imran Khan and his political party, PTI, face a complete ban on coverage by print, electronic, and digital Pakistani media. Even the publication of pictures of Imran Khan and PTI party flags is prohibited by the caretaker government, backed by the Pakistani establishment. Imran Khan and key party leaders, including women workers, are entangled in numerous false cases and are behind bars.
As per the constitution of Pakistan, general elections are mandated to take place within 90 days following the dissolution of the National Assembly. In August of the previous year (2023), the National Assembly was dissolved, necessitating elections by no later than November 8, 2023. However, the electoral process faced orchestrated delays by the caretaker government, supported by the Election Commission and influential establishments such as the Army, Intelligence services, and bureaucracy.
The evident motive behind these delays was to diminish the popularity of Imran Khan and PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf- Justice Party) before the actual election. Despite concerted efforts, they
were unsuccessful in achieving their objective. Eventually, the Supreme Court intervened, setting the date for the next general election on February 8, 2024.
Returning to the issue of blocking Imran Khan and PTI from contesting the general election, the PTI symbol, a cricket bat, was removed. Political party symbols are crucial in election campaigns and on the ballot in South Asian countries due to significant illiteracy. Since PTI’s ground election campaign, political gatherings, corner meetings, banners, and posters are banned, the party resorted to modern tools such as social media and online virtual meetings. Consequently, to impede PTI’s use of digital and internet media, the caretaker government decided to disrupt internet services in Pakistan during Imran Khan’s virtual speech and PTI’s election campaign. This not only resulted in millions of dollars in losses for online businesses in Pakistan but also constituted a blatant attack on the basic freedom of speech for the 250 million people of Pakistan.
This action not only undermines the democratic process but also brings shame to Pakistan on the global stage, tarnishing its reputation. The current caretaker government and establishment have displayed a lack of shame in oppressing the basic rights of the people of Pakistan.
It is disheartening to witness the erosion of democratic values, as these actions demonstrate a disregard for the people of Pakistan and their right to access information freely through global and social media. Now, more than ever, we must unite to uphold the principles of democracy and advocate for the people’s voice.
I urge the world, democratic & international powers, and international human rights organizations to stand against human rights abuses in Pakistan perpetrated by the caretaking government supported by the Pakistani establishment. Another shameful act of the caretaking government is the denial of visas to international observers, journalists, and media outlets, preventing them from monitoring and reporting on the most controversial elections in Pakistan.
On February 8, 2024, even facing these hard conditions and oppressive act by the current caretaking government, the people of Pakistan must step out from their homes and businesses to exercise their right to vote and support Imran Khan and his largest political party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The power to bring about positive change lies in the hands of the people, and it is crucial that they make their voices heard.
The world must let strive together for a democratic and prosperous Pakistan.
(The writer is Sydney-based Journalist, and political analyst, a presenter and editor Tribune International, Australia. His email address is email@example.com and mobile is +61 479 143 628).