Thursday, June 7, 2007

Working For The (Pakistani) Clampdown: More Than 300 Activists Arrested, New Media Rules In Effect

Pakistan Arrests 300 Workers From Opposition

According to Carlotta Gall in the New York Times (with emphasis added):
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 6 — The police have arrested more than 300 political party workers over the past few days in a crackdown before a protest planned this week against new government curbs on the news media, a government official acknowledged Wednesday.

Opposition legislators protested the arrests at the opening of a new session of the national Parliament, which had been on a three-week recess, but they were refused time by the speaker. Journalists covering Parliament staged a rowdy protest in the press gallery on Wednesday evening, interrupting the debate on the floor.

The president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, signed a decree on Monday giving a government regulating agency stronger powers over the news media and the ability to rewrite regulations without recourse to Parliament.

The decree added to the pressure on the three main private television channels, which have been told to stop live coverage and live political talk shows.
Their transmissions were blocked for several days across much of the country.

Journalists and editors said the government was cracking down to prevent critical coverage of General Musharraf’s suspension of the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and of the violence in Karachi related to his ouster. Forty-eight people were killed there on May 12 as police officers and rangers stood by.

Opposition parties allege that much of the shooting was conducted by the Muttahida Quami Movement, a partner in the governing coalition, and television images backed up their claims. Thousands flocked to rallies on Saturday in the north of Punjab to greet the chief justice.

Mr. Fazal Khan, the home secretary, said those seized were detained under a new measure, in force since Friday, that bans gatherings of more than five people. He said the government had to act after journalists had protested Monday and burned copies of the presidential decree.

“The government cannot sit idle after burning of the copies of the reference and other official documents, and holding rallies and public meetings by the opposition parties,” he told the television station.
Oh no! The government should never sit idle, especially in the face of rallies and public meetings. Who do those people think they are?

You can click here to read more from Carlotta Gall on the very volatile Pakistan.

As for me, the more I read and write about Pakistan, the more I see it as both an IED waiting to detonate, and also -- even more ominously -- as the shape of things to come ... here ... soon.

Of course there are differences. For instance, we don't have anybody like Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.