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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Pakistan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Pakistan, February 1997, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
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.

The dramatic deterioration in press freedom conditions that began in 1995 when ethnic and sectarian violence in urban centers worsened and then-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party started to impose bans on media outlets, continued throughout 1996. President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari on Nov. 5, 1996, abruptly dismissed the Bhutto administration from office because of accusations against the administration of rampant corruption and economic mismanagement. Leghari formalized the army's role in government by creating a 10-member Council for Defense and National Security on Jan. 6, 1997, causing concern among many local human rights groups that Pakistan could revert to authoritarian rule.

Many of the press freedom abuses were centered in the city of Karachi, where the Sindh provincial government vies for control with the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), an armed group that draws support from the descendants of Urdu-speaking Indian immigrants. Clouding the picture is a breakaway faction of the MQM, as well as sectarian groups that have pitted the city's Sunni and Shi'a Muslim communities against each other. Pakistani intelligence agency personnel seized Sheikh Aziz, an editor at the English-language daily Dawn, outside his residence in Karachi and detained him for more than 20 hours. In a separate incident, four armed men in a vehicle bearing Sindh government license plates beat and attempted to abduct Aftab Syed, an editor of the English-language daily The News, from his Karachi home.

Press conditions were even worse in the rural areas of Pakistan, where journalists encountered unchecked abuses of power by local governments and feudal lords who act with virtual impunity. The federal government effectively sanctioned and facilitated local authorities' intimidation of journalists by introducing an ordinance that allowed provincial governments to use army and paramilitary rangers for law and order purposes, including arrest and interrogation.

In a case typical of dangers journalists face in rural areas, police and others severely beat Monis Bokhari, a reporter for the daily Sindh in Dokri, after he reported that a member of the Sindh provincial government had illegally purchased land belonging to the Sindh Forest Department. Elsewhere in Sindh Province, men employed by a local landlord kidnapped and sexually assaulted Mumtaz Sher, a correspondent for the daily Bakhtar, after his newspaper published an article about alleged misconduct by a school administrator who is also the landlord's wife.

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