PPP leader Farhatullah Babar on Tuesday alleged that there has been a ‘creeping coup’ against the civilian government in the lead-up to the 2018 election.
Addressing a seminar organised by the Rawalpindi/Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) on freedom of expression and possible threats to the elections, the former senator noted that both democratically-elected governments which had completed their terms had sacrificed a prime minister each.
“A creeping coup has taken place against the authority of the civilian government. The coup has taken place very quietly before the election,” he said.
“It is different from the martial law of the past, with two resulting outcomes: the civilian government exists, but has no authority; press freedom exists, but journalists have no freedom.”
“All media has been controlled, whether it is social media, print media or electronic media. It is all happening very quietly,” he told the seminar.
“The restrictions from the security establishment are the greatest. There are also restrictions from non-state actors and your rulers,” he alleged. “The media is being attacked on all fronts.”
“When the ‘Dawn leaks’ controversy was published, it was said that it was against national security. A British newspaper reported on a secret garrison meeting earlier this year, yet no one is speaking about it,” Babar complained.
The PPP stalwart also called for an international conference on the freedom of expression.
“Parliament should be asked to hold a public briefing on the matter, and those against whom allegations have been levelled should also attend the briefing.”
“Political parties should, in addition to human rights agendas, present road maps for press freedom and protection of journalists,” he suggested.
“The civilian and military establishments are not on the same page. They are on different pages. To close the divide, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security should play a role.
“Institutions that announce without any investigation that a journalist has undermined national security should be strongly protested against, and they should be told that if the journalist has done anything wrong, then due legal process should be adopted against them,” Babar said.
“If I ask how a former army chief received 90 acres of land, a tweet will be published saying that I am trying to ruin civil-military ties,” he said.
“I fear that deliberate attempts are underway to create discord among journalists. There will be attempts to break you apart,” he warned.
The former senator also called for amendments to be made to the existing contempt and cyber crime laws, and said that suo motu powers should not be abused to either reward or punish anyone.