06/07/2018, 18.22
PAKISTAN
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Increasing attacks on journalists who denounce those who are corrupt

by Kamran Chaudhry

Gul Bukhari, 52, was abducted for a few hours in Lahore. Asad Kharal was beaten and forced to seek hospital treatment. Journalists have been reduced to silence ahead of the 25 July election. The media "play a very important role in unmasking stories of corruption and criminal activities by the powerful".

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Attacks against journalists and social activists are on the increase because they “expose those who are corrupt”, this according to Fr Morris Jalal, executive director of Catholic TV, a television station run by the Archdiocese of Lahore.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he notes that the recent spate in attacks against journalists by unknown criminals is in all likelihood related to a desire to silence critical voices ahead of the elections on 25 July. He also predicts clashes between media and the authorities.

One such attacks involves Gul Bukhari (pictured). Her brief abduction is still front-page news. A writer for The Nation newspaper and a television commentator, she was kidnapped in the evening of 5 May in Lahore on her way to a television studio to tape a broadcast. Bukhari is famous for her criticism of the Pakistani army and enforced disappearances by the military.

After a few hours in the hands of her captors, she was let go. On her Twitter account, she thanked the numerous messages of support she received from every part of the country. Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his political heir, expressed her solidarity to the journalist.

For her part, Bukhari said he was in good health and asked for silence, at least for now.

As this incident unfolded, Asad Kharal, one of Pakistan’s foremost investigative journalists, was attacked near Lahore airport by masked strangers. Because of the wounds he suffered, he had to go to hospital for treatment.

"We are going through a crucial moment,” said Fr Jalal of Catholic TV. “In Pakistan, the media have never been so powerful. They play a very important role in unmasking stories of corruption and criminal activities by the powerful. [In the past,] Such stories have always been hidden from the general public.

In the aforementioned incidents, “Both victims are investigative journalists. They were attacked for revealing those who are corrupt. It is a revenge of the dishonest."

According to Farooq Tariq, spokesman for the Awami (People’s) Workers Party, the rise in violence and threats against journalists and activists "are due to a gathering of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) which took place in Lahore in April.”

This “ethnic group has made the military nervous since it began a national campaign five months ago against extrajudicial killings and the disappearances of Pashtuns during the army’s long struggle against Islamic militants."

Gul Bukhari’s “fault” was that “she was on stage with Pashtun leaders and openly supported their positions. Her abduction is a crazy act because she is a woman. Usually men are victims of forced disappearances." The Muslim activist also notes that Bukhari "is the cousin of Asma Jahangir,” a lawyer and a champion of human rights who recently passed away.

In Asad Kharal’s case, “We do not have to agree with all his articles, but we must condemn the bullying by state gangsters.”

“Both are now silent” and “victims speak about their oppressors only when they flee abroad."

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