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Pakistan’s Social Media Crackdown to deter anti-military content led to curbing freedom of Expression and Victimizing Political Activists

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government last Sunday ordered the cybercrime department of the Federal Investigation Agency to proceed against activists "dishonoring" the national armed forces through social media.

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A man explores social media on a computer at an internet club in Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug. 11, 2016. source-VOA
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Islamabad, Pakistan, May 20, 2017:– A Pakistani government crackdown on social media to deter anti-military content has prompted accusations of curbing freedom of expression and victimizing political activists.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government last Sunday ordered the cybercrime department of the Federal Investigation Agency to proceed against activists “dishonoring” the national armed forces through social media.

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Authorities have since detained and interrogated an unspecified number of activists and seized their computers and cellphones. Most of the detainees belong to the opposition Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, headed by Imran Khan.

An independent watchdog group, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), has harshly criticized the crackdown. In a statement Friday, it demanded an end to “arbitrary curbs” on freedom of expression and a “climate of intimidation” of political activists, bloggers, journalists and other civil society activists.

FILE - The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan presents the 2016 annual human rights report, in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 10, 2017. The report offered a mixed report card in its annual look at the state of human rights in Pakistan.
FILE – The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan presents the 2016 annual human rights report, in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 10, 2017. The report offered a mixed report card in its annual look at the state of human rights in Pakistan, VOA

‘Hostility’ toward free speech

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“We hope the authorities realize how the prevailing situation demonstrates their hostility towards freedom of expression,” the HRCP said.

Khan has also accused the government of abusing the cybercrime law to “politically victimize” PTI’s social media activists. The opposition politician has been organizing street protests to pressure Sharif to resign, accusing him of corruption.

“Do not force PTI to come out on to the streets. We will never let you muzzle public dissent against you,” Khan warned the Sharif government while addressing a party rally in the southwestern city of Quetta on Friday.

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He alleged that the ruling party through fake accounts had unleashed an anti-army campaign in order to provoke the crackdown on social media activists of PTI. Khan’s party has been good at using social media to mobilize public support and highlight alleged corruption cases against government leaders.

The Sharif government has defended the punitive proceedings against social media activists, saying the constitution does not allow citizens to criticize the national armed forces.

FILE - Pakistan army soldiers gather at a forward area post on the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India, in Tatta Pani, 200 kilometers from Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 1, 2016.
FILE – Pakistan army soldiers gather at a forward area post on the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India, in Tatta Pani, 200 kilometers from Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA

‘Serious offense’

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“Ridiculing the Pakistan army or its officers on social media in the name of freedom of speech is unacceptable” and “a serious offense” under the law, the federal interior minister warned while ordering authorities to arrest and take “severe” action against those involved in such “condemnable” activities.

In its statement, HRCP dismissed those assertions and reminded authorities that the constitution also says any restriction with regard to freedom of speech “must be reasonable and shall not take effect if provided by law.”

The powerful military has ruled Pakistan at three different times, for a total of more than three decades, through direct coups against civilian governments. Critics say it continues to influence political affairs, particularly foreign policy.

The military, particularly its spy agency, also has long faced foreign criticism for allegedly harboring militants involved in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan and India.

Analysts say that despite the controversies surrounding the military, the institution has benefited from constitutional provisions that curtail criticism of it. (VOA)

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The Hindu Temple of Gulyana and Sikh Samadhi in Pakistan

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Gulyana, Pakistan

By: Wali Imran (Hindu Council of Australia)

900 years old Gulyana town of about a 50,000 people, just a few kilometers South of Gujar Khan, was raised to the ground once several centuries ago, by raiders from the West. The second time it was destroyed during the 1947 partition riots.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Before 1947, the Gulyana town center was mostly Hindu and Sikh. The Hindus and Sikh owned all the businesses in the town center and Muslims were their tenants, peasants and laborers. Muslims sold their lands to pay off their debts and also handed over their crop of wheat. The Dewan, Dutt, Mohyal Brahmin, and Singh families were always part of royal elite.

Bollywood Star Sanjay Dutt is from the same branch of warrior Brahmin Dutt and belongs to the same place.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Land owners were guaranteed protection from military’s presence in Gujar Khan from the North and a rivulet from the south. This land produced sheer gold and wealthy Sikhs and Hindus lived like kings in mansions make of stone, several storey high.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Bakshi Tek Chand, Dewan Prithvi Chand Dutt, Bakshi Moti Ram and Tara Singh were the dominant names of those times.  They built temples, dug up wells for the 30-50 kanal holdings each and distributed these lands amongst their permanent serfs. They did however, treat their serfs with respect and gave them a good share of the crop — what do you expect from absentee landlords.

Gulyana, Pakistan

The Sikh had a timber business. Logs from Kashmir valley were dumped into Jhelum River and recovered downstream near Jhelum city to be sold at Gujar Khan.

The Hindus were mostly traders, money lenders and retailers.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Muslims were mostly illiterate and poor and were destined to stay that way considering the only quality boarding school in nearby Gujar Khan had 95% non-muslim attendance.

During the 1947 riots, one Sikh Bali Singh and one Hindu Lady Banto were killed in the riots but the rest were whisked away with their gold, in the safety of Gorkha soldiers. The Muslim riot crowd burnt to the ground the several symbols of oppression and got rich in the process, during the looting.

One Hindu tehsildar had the magistrate’s powers to jail someone for 6 months.

Gulyana, Pakistan

When the British left suddenly in 1947, the carefully crafted social experiment in native subjugation came crumbling down within days.

Otherwise, one 100 years old resident of Gulyana tells me, “the Hindus and Sikh were very friendly towards the Muslims, their women played around with the boys, molvi were not trouble makers then; they cared about their serfs and neighbors’, built schools, hospitals and wells for the general public. No Muslim was allowed into their kitchen however. Balraj, Sita, Beera, Ramu Shikari, Gujrati, Peecha Singh, Mangat Singh, Jawals Singh, Raab Singh, Gurdyal, were the well-known Hindus and Labbu, Gurra, Jagdev, Santa, Paacha, Chatru were the known Sikh of the time. One Tek Chand Never left for India and embraced Islam. His wife and three sons left for India. Tek Chand married a Muslim lady and had seven children. They are all in poverty now. Several of the old mansion, one dhramsala, one temple, several bowlis (watering hole) have been lost to time.

Gulyana, Pakistan

The surrounding farms around Gulyana were refreshing. The old styled spoke wells, Sikh Samadhi, Hindu temple and 100 years old Gujarati’s mansion still survives.Gulyana, Pakistan

I went into the temple inner sanctum and saw the most beautiful frescos of mixed Hindu and Sikh religious figures like hanuman, Krishna, Sita, Baba Guru Nanak, Bala, Mardana, etc.

Gulyana, Pakistan

 

Pakistan government build a dam 5 km upstream, called the Ugahaun; it’s a lovely place to fish and boat around.

The union council in 1947 had more financial powers than it does today.

In short, all the entrepreneurs, educators, administrator, jurisprudence people, revenue people, land record people and large scale farmers left in 1947.

Gulyana, Pakistan

I am astonished how Pakistan survived with an illiterate mass of people, steeped in poverty — traumatized by exploitation and mass killings.

Other interesting places in Potohar region are:

Also Read: Protecting The World, The Hindu Way

Bedi Mahal, Pharwala fort, Malot fort, Sangini fort, Rawat fort and Mankial Stupa. (Hindu Council of Australia)