Benazir condemns sedition case against newspapers

ISLAMABAD: Leader of the opposition Benazir Bhutto has condemned the registration of sedition cases against three Urdu dailies of Karachi for publishing an advertisement a month ago, which the prosecution alleges incited people against the state.

Benazir termed the registration of sedition case as 'harassment' of the Jang Group of Publications and the threats being hurled at the editor of 'The News' Rawalpindi, Dr Maleeha Lodhi as elements of the regime's bid to stifle dissent and muzzle the free press. "A few months ago the regime also sought to subjugate the monthly Newsline by harassing its editor and staff for publishing corruption stories about Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Senator Saifur Rehman.

The opposition leader said that the prime minister just could not tolerate dissent and was blinded by greed and revenge. "Nawaz regime is characterised by the politics of revenge, the politics of ethnicity and the politics of insecurity. It is fighting 'holy wars' against both perceived foes and known friends. It has fought in two years, the Presidency, the Supreme Court, the Election Commission, its political allies, the Sindh government, the foreign investors and the private foreign currency account holders," she said.

Benazir Bhutto said the Raiwind regime was bent upon turning Pakistan into an authoritarian, theocratic, repressive and unitary rogue state poised against its people, the federating units and Pakistan's friends and possible allies in the world. The present regime, she said, was made up of a coterie of corrupt gangsters who had usurped the rights of the oppressed people of all the federating units.

"Not content with domesticating the parliament, subordinating bureaucracy, destroying one by one the state institutions, the regime has turned its guns against the free press. Pakistan cannot survive, prosper, develop and maintain its unity and sovereignty through such repression, mis-governance and corruption," she warned.

Benazir Bhutto said that it was intriguing that simultaneously with registration of sedition cases and other repressive measures against newspapers and journalists, the regime had promulgated an ordinance to set up military courts throughout the country.

"This has been done in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court has already stayed the execution of death sentences awarded by military courts in Karachi and is set to take up the case of legality of these courts from today (Monday). And this has been done despite superior court's rulings in the past that military courts could not be established under the Constitution to try ordinary civilians," Benazir said. The issuance of the ordinance therefore was intended to strike terror to silence dissent on the one hand and to send a signal to the Supreme Court on the eve of beginning of hearing in the historic case on the other, she said.

The opposition leader deplored that even female journalists like Kamila Hayat and Maleeha Lodhi were not spared. She said this was because the band of Raiwind clergy and an 'Ahrari' in the Presidency were against the women. Benazir said that after turning women police stations set up by her government into men police stations and abolishing the family courts headed by women, the obscurantist regime had turned against female journalists.

Benazir Bhutto said that Pakistan and Nawaz Sharif could not co-exist and warned that if the regime was not stopped in its tracks right now, tomorrow might be too late. She asked the lawyers, human rights groups, journalists, intellectuals and the general public to realise the gravity of the threat to the freedom of citizens and consequently to the stability of the federation. "The tyrants, the usurpers, the brigands and the oppressors must be stopped now if Pakistan is to survive," she said.

The News International Pakistan