Editorial & Opinion

Feb. 08, 1999
Freedom generates progress
Dr Manzur Ejaz
Everyday in the United States, several judicial cases are brought up by individuals and groups asking the courts to protect their freedom of expression guaranteed to them under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the country. Most of the times the courts nullify laws passed by US Congress, state legislative bodies, or other official and non official agencies that encroach on the freedom of expression of the individuals. Such an open atmosphere has helped the United States to become a world leader not only in economic and military spheres but also in the world of ideas.

No dreams to live by
Anwar Ahmad
Last week, comment on the government-Jang Group war was deliberately avoided. Primarily, because best defence of what the Jang Group stood for ought to have come from the outside--particularly, from other media groups. Barring honourable exceptions, that has been a disappointment (true to the past pattern of sycophancy and opportunism, reminds the respected journalist-historian Mr Zamir Niazi).

Feb. 05 1999

Democracy in danger
Nasim Zehra
The vigour and consistency with which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's personal friend, senator and key henchman Saifur Rehman has taken up his 'demolish Jang' operation, can no longer be ignored. Every thinking Pakistani who believes in democracy and views Pakistan's progress as intrinsically linked to the survival of democracy must fully understand that inherent in the fascistic 'demolish Jang' operation, is the unfolding obituary of democracy. In substance if not in form. Today unbridled state power is being deployed to gag the Jang group for its many 'ills' - the 'ills' that have invoked displeasure of those who rule us; those who lack credibility yet seek sweeping applause.

Why silence the press
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Early morning a van drops five men at the corner of two not-so-busy roads in the capital. They all wear police uniforms. One has a newspaper in hand. It is so cold that their breath can be seen in the air. They rub their hands, look around and stand under a tree where the slanting rays of morning sun provide a streak of warmth. This is the beginning of a long day for them.

Feb. 04, 1999

Government-press row
Dr MS Jillani
Anybody who says that he is not perturbed over the onslaught on the Jang Group is at best naive. The indifference being exhibited by some sections of the society in this case has very dangerous implications. This is partly a consequence of the feeling that nothing will happen by invasion of an institution as many others like the presidency, the judiciary, the civil and military bureaucracy, have been effectively demoralised and subjugated. In spite of all the indignation of the intellectuals nothing happened and the onslaught continued. So nothing will happen even now. This provides the government with a license to destroy the institutions further.

Feb. 03, 1999

Jang under fire
Farrukh Saleem
In 1633, William Prynne in Histrio-Mastix criticised the queen. Prynne was "imprisoned, pilloried and shorn of his ears." One hundred and fifty years latter, the founding fathers of the United States wanted to make sure that the same does not happen in their country. In 1789, they enacted the First Amendment to the Bill of rights enabling the press to "pursue its mission, no matter how odious that mission might seem to those in power." In 1974, US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said that the "primary purpose of the First Amendment was to create a fourth institution outside the government as an additional check on the three official branches (the executive branch, the legislature and the judiciary)."

Role of free institutions
Dr Tariq Rahman
Let us consider only two kinds of free institutions: the press and the nongovernment institutions (NGOs). Why do we need them at all? We need them if we want a democratic culture to be created; if we want democratic forms of government to be strengthened; if we want rule of law with respect for individual rights. And why should we value such things? Let us look at medieval and contemporary history for the answer.

Still in chains
Sardar FS Lodi
The ongoing government campaign to suppress and throttle the Jang Group of newspapers will surely be remembered as yet another shameful and sordid chapter in the history of the present Muslim League government. The Jang Group is one of the three largest newspaper groups in the country and the only one publishing a daily abroad as well.

Feb. 02, 1999

Uses of press freedom
Ghazi Salahuddin
As we stand riveted to this truly historic showdown between the present government and the Jang Group, the focus on the freedom of the press has the potential of reviving the spirits of a depressed and demoralised nation. Indeed, the outcome of this momentous encounter can become a turning point in the evolution of our polity. But this would require a sober reflection on what the press freedom means and entails in a democratic setting. The time for such a reflection, of course, would come when the great commotion that has led to the hearing of the case by the Supreme Court of Pakistan has subsided. Yet all the concerned players must not lose sight of the long-term ramifications of what is now the basis of flaming headlines.

Dec 27, 1998
Press under fire
Shafqat Mahmood
This is a strange battle. The government objects to Pakistani newspapers reproducing stories that appear in the foreign press. Stories that concern Pakistan and some of it's top public representatives and officials. Stories of corruption, of lawsuits and of profligate spending. They contradict these allegations through official handouts published in local papers. What they do not do is sue the British newspapers for printing what they consider to be false stories. What can we make of this?

Dec 22, 1998
The myth of freedom
Ghazi Salahuddin
During those treacherous times of Gen Zia's martial law, when pre-publication censorship was imposed on the press, I had, in a lighter vein, developed a standard response to questions about what was happening in the country. "How do I know", I would say, "I work in a newspaper". Things have definitely changed since then and particularly during the past decade of the supposedly democratic dispensation. It would appear that the newspapers have considerable freedom to report and to critically review the national scene. But the complexities of what this freedom means and what are its uses are generally not taken into account. After all, what is the purpose of the freedom of the press if it is unable to to perform certain functions, such as to protect and promote democratic values and the rule of law?

Dec 15, 1998
Sharifs in the dock
Though revelations in foreign media about some Pakistani politicians' dubious business deals have now lost their shock value, The Sunday Observer report on a writ issued in the London High Court, naming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's father and brothers as guarantors of an unpaid huge loan for a paper mill, is a good indicator of at least the image of our leaders abroad. The 11 million writ initiated by the Al-Towfeek Company for Investment Funds, an offshoot of a Saudi Arabian bank, claims that these members of the Prime Minister's family guaranteed parts of the loan and are thus liable for repayment of the debt. Doubting the credibility of the story, a spokesman of the Sharifs has termed the story a manoeuvre by "such internal and external forces, which were always out to tarnish the image of Pakistan". Dismissing the charges as repetition of "the same baseless and fabricated allegations against the group" which the same paper published in September this year, the spokesman also pointed to some factual errors in the report.