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Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Pakistan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1999
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Pakistan, February 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5657d28.html [accessed 21 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

As of December 31, 1998

As he faced the various crises besetting his administration, Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif displayed a distinct tendency toward authoritarianism. The government's extreme sensitivity to criticism had troubling implications for the press, which was also vulnerable to attacks from militant groups.

When Pakistan responded to neighboring India's nuclear tests with its own series of blasts at the end of May, the economic fallout was devastating. International sanctions imposed against the country for daring to push its way into the nuclear club led to a $32 billion debt burden, a radically devalued currency, and steep price hikes on most basic commodities. In an effort to minimize social disorder, Sharif declared a national state of emergency on the day after the tests were launched and suspended constitutionally established rights – including the freedoms of expression and association – along with guarantees regarding arbitrary arrest and detention. In June, a joint session of parliament approved the declaration and provided for its enforcement for up to six months. Although Pakistan's Supreme Court restored civil liberties in July, it upheld the emergency decree.

In November, in response to factional violence that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people in Karachi, the capital of Sindh Province and the commercial heart of Pakistan, the prime minister announced a state of emergency in Sindh. Sectarian violence in Sindh Province posed dangers for the press, with an especially ominous bombing in July directed against the Karachi newspaper Dawn, the country's most widely circulated English-language daily.

During the year, the government embarked on a systematic campaign of harassment to punish news organizations that challenged the administration. Among the hardest hit was the Jang Group of Newspapers, Pakistan's largest newspaper publishing company.

Also disturbing was the prime minister's push for a 15th amendment to the Constitution – the so-called Shariat Bill – which would give the federal government greater power to establish Islamic law in Pakistan. Journalists and human rights activists pointed out that Pakistan is already an Islamic state, and saw the amendment as an attempt by the administration to establish a dictatorship under the cloak of religion. Although the bill was languishing in the senate at year's end, some in Pakistan worried that Sharif's moves gave confidence to religious extremists, some of whom have threatened journalists for what they regard as anti-Islamic writings.

Attacks on the Press in Pakistan in 1998

DateJournalistIncident
12/17/98Saeed Iqbal Hashmi, MashriqThreatened
11/28/98Naseer Ahmad Saleemi, ZindagiHarassed
11/26/98Idrees Bakhtiar, Herald, BBCHarassed
10/01/98NewslineHarassed
09/23/98Saeed Iqbal Hashmi, MashriqThreatened
09/23/98Ayaz Ali Shah, MashriqThreatened
09/23/98Qaiser Butt, MashriqThreatened
09/03/98Zafaryab Ahmed, free-lancerHarassed, Legal Action
07/19/98Ansar Naqvi, The News Hyderabad bureau chiefAttacked, Harassed
07/19/98M.H. Khan, Dawn correspondentAttacked, Harassed
07/09/98Dawn newspaperAttacked
07/01/98Jang Group of NewspapersHarassed
07/01/98Maleeha Lodhi, The NewsThreatened
07/01/98Kamran Khan, The NewsThreatened
07/01/98Kamila Hyat, The NewsThreatened
07/01/98Marianna Babar, The NewsThreatened
07/01/98Kaleem Omar, The NewsThreatened
07/01/98Beena Sarwar, The News on SundayThreatened
07/01/98Irshad Ahmed Haqqani, JangThreatened
07/01/98Mahmood Sham, JangThreatened
07/01/98Sohail Wariach, JangThreatened
07/01/98Nasir Beg Chughtai, JangThreatened
07/01/98Mudassir Mirza, JangThreatened
07/01/98Khawar Naeem Hashmi, JangThreatened
07/01/98Sohaib Marghob, Jang Sunday MagazineThreatened
07/01/98Abid Tahimi, Jang Sunday MagazineThreatened
07/01/98Sajjad Anwar, Jang Sunday MagazineThreatened
07/01/98Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Jang Group of NewspapersHarassed, Legal Action
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