- At least 36 occurrences of Censorship and Fines to suppress Press Freedom, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Expression compared to 64 incidents in the corresponding period of last year.
- At least 23 attacks committed by large political parties, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) against Press Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression, and Religious Freedom compared to 17 occurrences in the corresponding period of last year. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) remained the top attacker with 20 violations - the third year in a row.
KILLINGS - 2021
- April 2021, armed robbers shot dead journalist Abdul Wahid Raisani, a sub-editor for Daily Azadi, in Quetta. Mr. Raisani was going home after work when the robbers intercepted him and tried to snatch his motorcycle, upon resistance, the robbers shot him dead.
- April 2021, local police arrested a man Haq Nawaz, on allegations of killing his son, journalist Waseem Alam. Mr. Alam was an editor of the newspaper, Sada-e-lawaghir in Karak, part of the Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) province. According to the police, suspect Mr. Nawaz has confessed to the killing. However, the motive of the killing was not asserted.
- March 17, 2021, unidentified shooters killed Royal News TV and Daily Puchano journalist Ajay Kumar Laalwani in Sukkur, part of the Sindh province. Mr. Laalwani belonged to the minority Hindu community and voiced his concerns over forced marriages, conversions, and rights. He was killed in a barbershop. The police are investigating the motive of the killing. According to LAL MALHI, Member National Assembly of Pakistan and theParliamentary Secretary for Human Rights, “the legal heirs did not approach the police station for lodging the police report, a committee of the senior police officers has been formed for conducting an impartial investigation.” The official notification shared by Mr. Malhi on his verified Twitter account has the names of the police officers included. DEVELOPMENT: On March 28, 2021, the police in Sukkur city announced the arrest of the prime suspect and two of his accomplices. The police claimed to recover the murder weapon. However, the lawyer representing the deceased journalist said the police are hesitant to arrest the real suspect. April 3, 2021: Upon request of Mr. Dileep Kumar, the father of Mr. Lalwani, the provincial administration of Sindh changed the Investigation Officer (IO) for henceforth investigation.
ASSAULTS | ARRESTS | HARASSMENTS - 2021
- April 20, 2021, an unidentified bike rider shot a senior journalist and ex-chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Absar Alam, in the stomach. Mr. Alam was walking in a park close to his home in Islamabad, the heavily guarded capital city of Pakistan. Mr. Alam’s injury was not life-threatening and he released a video message shortly after the attack with some details of the shooting. A case has been registered against an unknown attacker and the government has also condemned the attack.
- April 2021, activists of Pakistan’s religion-based political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) seized the major intersections and highways in the major cities of Pakistan. TLP activists attacked different media workers and destroyed the recording equipment. The violent protesters attacked a privately-owned ARY News DSNG van and smashed the windscreen. At least three policemen were killed and 85 injured during the protests. The TLP's major demand is to expel the French ambassador from Pakistan after French solidarity with the victims of Charlie Hebdo and President Emmanuel Macron ensuing statement “Islam as a religion in crisis,” in October 2020. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had also protested over President Macron's statement. Pakistan has been surrendering to the demands of TLP in the past. During TLP protests in 2017, current Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that his party willing to join TLP sit-ins. The armed forces mediated the TLP 2017 impasse by handing out money to the protesters for going back home and accepting TLP conditions. UPDATES: Under extreme pressure from across the world and within, Pakistan banned TLP, but In the middle of the Islamic uprising, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the world leaders to equate blasphemy to Holocaust. Encouraged by Prime Minister's ill-timed demand, the religious fanatics regrouped and attacked police and paramilitary forces in a police station and kidnapped at least eleven and injured several policemen in Lahore. Periodically, Pakistan has been surrendering to the Islamic uprising & religious fanatics, collusion with militants such as Ehsanullah Ehsan (operative of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and prime suspect of the Army Public School attack that killed 150 people including 134 students in 2014), and leniencies to the prime accused in The Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl beheading in 2002 in Pakistan. April 20, 2021: TLP religious fundamentalists succeeded in bringing Pakistan to its knees over blasphemy and forced the Islamists leaning The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to call an urgent session of the National Assembly of Pakistan to debate over the resolution for the removal of the French Ambassador. As the session begins, PTI lawmaker Amjid Ali Khan presented a resolution condemning reprint of controversial cartoons in Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly magazine, and French President Emmanuel Macron.
- April 2021, following the orders of the court, the police booked Islamabad’s organizers and partakers of the Aurat (women) march for blasphemy. However, the orders of charges were issued by a court in Peshawar, part of the ultra-conservative province of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Images and videos widely shared on social media claiming the march participants have committed blasphemy against sacred personalities of Islam, but the fact-checks and forensic proved the blasphemous claims were fake, photo-shopped, and part of a campaign to malign Aurat March. Fanatics and patriarchal have been terming Aurat March or women empowerment against the norms of Pakistani culture and Islam.
- April 2021, police arrested journalist Alla Khan for covering the beleaguered Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) in the Tribal belt of Wana, South Waziristan. The journalist owns local media outlet Zhagh news. Journalists from the Wana Press Club protested for the release of Mr. Khan. According to the local police, Mr. Khan has been arrested for violating COVID-19 SOPs.
- April 2021, Karachi Bachao Tehreek reported the arrests of its activists Khurram Ali, Erum Baji, Zara, Israr, and others in Kausar Niazi Colony. Karachi Bachao Tehreek is a movement campaigning to end the demolition of working-class Karachi settlements and markets in the name of urban development.
- March 2021, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) claimed that Rana Muhammad Azeem, secretary-general of PFUJ has received life threats from a gangster after exposing mafias in a TV talk-show aired on a privately-owned channel 92 News. Just a few weeks ago, a court notice was published in the leading newspaper “Jang,” Karachi edition accusing Mr. Azeem of criminalities. However, Mr. Azeem did not name the person who threatened him or how did he communicate his threat? PFUJ termed the cases against Mr. Azeem as baseless.
- March 2021, the provincial Sindh police booked journalists, Sindhi nationalists, and rights activists belonging to Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM), Jeay Sindh Mahaz, and other groups representing the rural population of Sindh under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The protesters gathered in front of the Sukkur police chief office over the extrajudicial killing of Mr. Irfan Jatoi, a student of the Sindh University. Some of the individuals facing terrorism charges; bureau chief of Samma TV Sahil Jogi, bureau chief of Abtak TV Imdad Phulpoto, Rustam Indhar of daily Puchano, journalist Adam Shanbani, writer Ustad Khalid Chandio, Dr. Niaz Kalani of JSQM, Riaz Chandio of JSM, Ghulam Nabi and Sajid Jatoi, brothers of deceased student Irfan Jatoi. The police alleged the deceased was a wanted criminal.
- March 2021, the police registered a case against journalist Ghulam Akbar Marwat over allegations of blackmailing, interference in the government’s functioning, and misleading the public in Lakki Marwat, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Mr. Marwat termed the case retaliatory and linked to his report exposing the corruption of the Food Department in flour distribution. Mr. Marwat is also the president of the Lakki Marwat Press Club.
- February 2021, Sindhi nationalist protesters attacked Pakistan's largest privately-owned media house Geo and Jang Media Group's head office in Karachi. The attackers ransacked and damaged the property and physically assaulted the employees. Geo News Managing Director Azhar Abbas confirmed via his verified Twitter account (@AzharAbbas3) that the attacking mob, “beat our Cameraman and staff.” The protesters were angered over journalist Irshad Bhatti mimicking Sindhis in the comedy TV show Khabarnaak. According to Sindhi nationalists, Mr. Bhatti has been targeting them from time to time. Mr. Bhatti offered an apology for what he believed was offensive to Sindhi nationalists. The attack was surprising because the provincial Sindh government had banned rallies, protests, and all sorts of public assemblies just a few days ago. However, the police did not stop the mob from attacking. The provincial management is predominantly Sindhis. Provincial statics show the 95 percent of the government jobs are held by the rural Sindhi while urbanites known as Muhajirs or Urdu speaking deprived of government jobs through a quota system. Nevertheless, much of the provincial mainstream media has a large concentration of Muhajirs. The succeeding governments keep the urban-rural rift intact for political gains. Political sarcasm and comedy shows are fast disappearing in Pakistan because of nationalists and religious fundamentalists. Artists and journalists face risks of lives, attacks, arrests, bans, job losses, blasphemy charges, and trolls. Geo and its staff have been targeted intermittently. Editor-in-Chief of Jang and Geo Group, Mir Shakil ur Rahman spent more than 200 days behind bars in a politically motivated and retaliatory case, the Supreme Court of Pakistan granted him bail on November 9, 2020.
- February 2021, the Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to act against individuals running YouTube channels and tighten the surveillance over electronic media targeting the judiciary. There is a growing concern about selective justice and government-friendly judiciary in Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan and sub-ordinate courts have dissimilar rulings in dealing with the cases of legal similarities such as foreign funding, dual nationalities for holding public office, property beyond means, and encroachments; The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) gets relief from the courts while the political opponents and critics are penalized.
- February 2021, The Peshawar High Court (PHC) authorized the trial of rights activist and civilian Idris Khattak to the military court, field general court-martial (FGCM). Though Mr. Khatttak has never served in the military nor associated in any capacity, the court referred to the Official Secret Act, 1923 (The Act of 1923).” Last year, the same court had ordered the release of the prisoners convicted by the military courts, citing the lack of justice and forced confessional statements. BRIEF TIMELINE: June 2020, Pakistan’s Defense Ministry informed the country’s commission on enforced disappearances that human rights activist Idris Khattak, disappeared in November 2019, in the custody of the Military Intelligence (MI). November 2019, unknown armed persons, wearing police uniforms and riding government vehicles, kidnapped Idris Khattak, a senior political activist and former General Secretary of the "National Party Pakhtunkhwa," from Swabi, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
- February 2020, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) revoked the bail of Muhammad Ismail, the father of the Pashtun rights activist, Gulalai Ismail. According to Ms. Ismail’s tweets, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), Mr. Ismail was later brought back to their house located in the village Swabi Marghuz, and the CTD officers planted fabricated papers/receipts to generate fake evidence against the family. Ms. Ismail further tweeted that the police refused access to medication and clothing to Mr. Ismail when her mother wanted to give it to Mr. Ismail in the police station and told her, “He is not in the police station.” Ms. Ismail also reported the raids on her relatives’ houses in her village. In September 2020, Pakistani authorities had added new terrorism charges against 66-year-old human rights activist and a retired university professor Mohammad Ismail, his wife Uzlifat Ismail, and daughter Gulalai Ismail. The court had already acquitted the persecuted family two years ago. The retrial alleged the donations for Ms. Gulalai Ismail charity Aware Girls, spent on the cars used in the deadly suicide attacks in 2013 and 2015. The whole family denied the allegations and maintained that the cases are apparent attempts to pressurize Ms. Gulalai Ismail from raising her voice against State’s highhandedness aimed at Pashtuns. Ms. Gulalai Ismail services have been recognized internationally and she has received many awards including, the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy, International Humanist of the Year Award by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and the joint winner, with murdered journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, of the Anna Politkovskaya Award. In 2016, her organization Aware Girls was awarded the Fondation Chirac Peace Prize for the Prevention of Conflict. She has now self-exiled to the United States. On February 15, 2021, an anti-terrorism court in Peshawar denied bail to ailing and elderly professor Mohammad Ismail.
- February 2021, authorities sealed the office of MQM (Pakistan) and seized sound-system over songs honoring banned and Self-exiled founder Altaf Hussain. Mr. Hussain remained kingmaker for three decades, and his party Muhajir Qumi Movement (MQM) ruled the largest city of Pakistan, Karachi; however, his party abused the public support and profit from racketeering, extortion, and brutally killed party turncoats and opponents. He challenged the status quo and sent the middle-class into the parliament; however, he changed his party from Muhajir Movement to Muttahida (united) movement. During his heydays, political leaders like Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif sought Mr. Hussain's help to form the Federal Government and succeeded. Mr. Hussain now faces sedition charges and media black-out in Pakistan. In 1992, the para-military forces attacked MQM, killed the activists in extra-judicial killings, thousands were thrown in jails, and offices bulldozed. According to MQM, more than 18,000 workers were killed extra-judicially. Mr. Hussain and his followers are the descendants of the migrants who immigrated to Pakistan in 1947 after the British retreat from India and Pakistan.
- January 2021, reporter Malik Ehtisham and cameraman Munawar Abbasi working for a local newspaper, Qaumi Lalkar daily claimed unidentified armed men briefly kidnapped them for carrying the copies of the newspaper containing land mafia activities in Islamabad.
- January 2021, Public News fired anchor Adnan Haider. Senior journalists and media insights believed that the action was taken after a show participant Imran Riaz Khan’s allegation leveled against Army Chief and land-mafia links in Pakistan. Public news and the military have not yet commented. Later, the pro-government leaning Imran Riaz Khan backtracked his grave allegations of Army Chief's relative links with the land-grabbers, however, Mr. Haider has not been reinstated.
- January 2021, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) activists attacked and injured privately-owned channel ARY News crew during the coverage of PDM public meetings in Malakand, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. In the video clip released by the ARY News, the crew is taking cover in the DSNG van. The PDM is the coalition of the opposition parties asking for premature resignation from Prime Minister Imran Khan. The ARY News is a pro-government channel.
- January 21, defense lawyers with three men Raja Arshad, Noman Khokhar, and Raja Hashim, indicted for the murder of Barrister Fahad Malik, attacked and brutally injured privately-owned Geo News cameraman Nasir Mughal. Mr. Mughal was attacked in the presence of police while filming the accused departure from the court.
- January 2021, resident editor Pakistan Press International (PPI) Imad Zafar reported via tweeter his kidnapping, assault, torture, and police refusal to register a report on the pretext of no physical marks. The police did not comment on the allegations.
- January 2021, authorities in Balochistan province stopped Pashtun rights activist and member of beleaguered Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) Sanna Ejaz (سیاله) from the inauguration of a girl’s library and forced her out of the area of Zhob. Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) claims the representation for the rights of those affected by the war against militancy and what PTM believes oppressions of the armed forces in the tribal areas.
ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES - 2021
- March 2021, internet-based The Balochistan Post reported the enforced disappearances of four Baloch men from the different parts of the turbulent Balochistan province. The website alleged the security forces behind the kidnappings of Ayaz Bangulzai, Jan Beg Rind, Sultan Rind, and Ghulam Mustafa.
- March 2021, Baloch and rights activists reported the kidnapping of a Baloch student, Naveed Qadeer from Quetta, the provincial capital of turbulent Balochistan. According to the reports, Mr. Qadeer is a final-year student of the Bachelors of Science (BS) in Mining Engineering at the University of the Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore campus.
- March 2021, just ten days apart, tortured dead bodies of two missing persons found in Pakistan. The body of the Awami National Party (ANP) Balochistan spokesperson Asad Khan Achakzai recovered from Noshar, Quetta. Mr. Achakzai was reported missing in September 2020. Construction workers found the dead body of another missing person Muhammad Salam in North Waziristan, part of the North Waziristan (KP) province. Unidentified persons had kidnapped Mr. Salam in 2007.
- January 2021, A group of unknown individuals kidnapped advocate Hammad Saeed Dar from his house in Tarnol, Punjab. Mr. Dar was recovered after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) sent notices to high ranking police officers and Interior Ministry officials. Mr. Dar informed the judge that kidnappers seized his communication devices, blindfolded, and kept him in the room. The motive of the kidnapping remained unknown.
MINORITIES | BLASPHEMY - 2021
- May 2021, Muslim nurses seized a Christian church and started to sing Islamic rhymes in Punjab Institute of Mental Health in Lahore. The nurses threatened Christian nurses to convert to Islam or face blasphemy charges. The Muslim nurses were angered after a viral video against Pakistan was uploaded from France. Immediately after, the provincial authorities claimed to have the issue resolved. Pakistan and France diplomatic relations have been soured over blasphemy in recent months.
- April 2021, a charged mob attacked and partially damaged a mosque belongs to the persecuted Muslim Ahmadiyya (Ahmadi) minority in Muzaffargarh, part of the Punjab province. The Ahmadiyya community members called the police but the attackers continued demolishing the minarets and entrance in police presence. Instead of taking action against the attackers, the police arrested five members of the Ahmadiyya community. The Ahmadis are subjected to the prolonged persecution in Pakistan. A former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had declared Ahmadiyya or Qadyani as non-Muslim in 1974. Since then, hundreds of the members of the Ahmadiyya community have been killed, thrown in jails, and deprived of employment opportunities. Tens of thousands have left Pakistan. Since the declaration, the Ahmadiyya community subjected to continuous persecution and discrimination by the succeeding governments and vigilantes. Ahmadiyya community is not allowed to call their worship place as masjid (mosque) likewise rest of the Muslims.
- April 2021, local police rescued two minority Christian females, a nurse Mariyum Masih and a student Arooj Masih from a mob attack at the District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital, Faisalabad, the part of the Punjab province. The mob had gathered after the allegations that the accused females removed a holy sticker from a cupboard. The police booked both females for blasphemy under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Christian nurses are the lifeline of the Pakistani healthcare system.
- March 2021, influentials kidnapped and allegedly raped a 15-year-old minority Hindu girl Rani Meghwar Chachro, in Tharparkar district, part of the Sindh province. The kidnappers also kidnapped her father for filing a police report. This is the second time Rani Meghwar kidnapped and allegedly raped. Sindh province is ruled by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), largely consisting of wealthy landowners with political inheritance. PPP vehemently protects the Bhutto family and the vested interests of its members while people continue to beg for clean water, medical, transportation, jobs, security, and cleanliness. Mian Abdul Haq, commonly known as "Mian Mitthu," is the ringleader of forced marriages and forced conversions of underage minority girls in the Sindh province also belongs to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Each year, as many as 700 Hindu and Christian minor girls are kidnapped in Pakistan, while many cases remain underreported. In most of the cases, the court rulings side with the kidnappers as police collude with the kidnappers, and the majority of the victims belong to the underprivileged families.
- March 2021, Taqi Shah, a minority Shia scholar axed to death over blasphemy allegations in Jhang, part of the Punjab province. The police arrested the suspect, and the District Police Officer (DPO) confirmed the blasphemy allegations as the motive for the killing. Mr. Shah was already facing blasphemy charges and a case was registered against him in 2019.
- March 2021, the Lahore High Court admitted a petition seeking a death sentence for a minority Christian man Mr. Sajjad Masih Gill, who is in jail since 2013. Mr. Gill is in jail for sending a text message that was arbitrarily taken as blasphemy. Religious fanatics attacked Mr. Gill's family in the past and now they fear for their lives.
- March 2021, religious fanatics accused a freethinker, poet, and intellectual Amar Jaleel of blasphemy over an altered and misconstrued video of his lecture.
- March 2021, unknown kidnappers kidnapped a 13-year-old minority Christian girl and forced her into a marriage with a Muslim man. Instead of charging for kidnapping and rape, the local police merely informed the victim’s parents Johnson Masih and his wife Samina about her marriage and converting to Islam. The police handed the parents a marriage certificate issued and generated in a local mosque and the parents have been denied access to their daughter. The parents had filed a missing report weeks ago. The crime took place in Okara, the province of Punjab. Pir Mian Abdul Khaliq (Mian Mithu), a well-connected political and spiritual leader, is known as the ring leader of forced conversion in urban-rural divided Sindh province.
- March 2021, families and rights activists protested the kidnapping and forced conversion to Islam of two Hindu girls, 13-year-old Kavita and Arti Kumari in Kandhkot, a remote part of the Sindh province. The family alleged Pir Abdul Haq, alias Mian Mithu, as the conspirator behind the forced-conversion. However, Mr. Mithu insisted the girls willingly converted to Islam.
- March 2021, religious fundamentalists attacked, desecrated, and partially damaged a mosque belonging to the persecuted Muslim-minority Ahmadiyya community in Gujranwala, the Punjab province.
- February 2021, Lahore police booked two Christian men Salamat and Haroon over blasphemy allegations for reading Bible in a park. The Religious vigilantes had alleged the men for preaching.
- February 2021, a 16-year-old shot dead Abdul Qadir In his clinic in volatile Peshawar, the part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Mr. Qadir belonged to one of the most persecuted Muslim Ahmadiyya (Ahmadi) community of Pakistan. The police have confirmed the killing as a hate crime based on religious hatred.
- February 2021, high tech giants Google and Apple surrendered to the demands of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and deactivate seven applications over blasphemy allegations. The apps were developed by the persecuted Muslim Ahmadiyya minority expatriates.
- January 2021, Co-workers attacked and injured a Christian nurse and gospel singer Tabeeta Nazir Gill over blasphemy allegations, and police detained her for days over blasphemy after a charged mob gathered at the police station in Karachi.
- January 2021, police arrested a Christian pastor Raja Waris over one of his social media posts on blasphemy allegations in Charrar, Lahore. Hundreds of Christian families living in the neighborhoods had to run for safety after possible extremist attacks.
- January 2021, a court in the capital city of Islamabad sentenced three men Nasir Ahmed, Abdul Waheed, and Rana Noman to death over what the court believed was “blasphemous contents” on social media under sections 295-A, 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Section G-7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told the court that Rana Noman and Abdul Waheed generated fake profiles to spread blasphemous contents, while Nasir Ahmed posted blasphemous material on Youtube.
- January 2021, a court in the capital city of Islamabad sentenced Professor Anwaar Ahmed to 10 years imprisonment and a hefty fine of Rs 100,000. The court construed his critical opinions on religion during lectures, are blasphemous. Mr. Ahmed is a lecturer at the Islamabad Model College.
- January 2021, Rimal Ali, a transgender model and dancer was attacked and had her head shaved in Lahore. Ali told media of receiving life-threats, and the known attacker was forcing the subject to stop the show business career.
- January 2021, heavily armed unidentified assailants kidnapped eleven Muslim-Minority, Shia-Hazara coal miners and killed them from a very close range in Quetta, Balochistan. Terrorist group ISIL (ISIS) claimed the execution-style killings on its news agency known as “Amag.” ISIL released a picture of the group members with dead bodies and the group’s flag in the background. Over the past five years, more than 600 members of the Shia – Hazara community killed in the troubled province of Balochistan for their faith
CENSORSHIPS | BANS | FINES - 2021
- April 2021, Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) asked microblogging and social networking service Twitter to block criticism towards the judiciary in Pakistan. Pakistani courts, including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, face immense criticism over what critics believe is “selective justice.”
- April 2021, Pakistan’s National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior passed an amendment bill that made criticizing the armed forces a punishable crime for up to two years in jail and a fine of Rs500,000. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Amjad Ali Khan, had tabled the bill.
- March 2021, the Peshawar High Court banned TikTok, a short-length video-sharing social networking platform on the allegation that the contents and uploads are “unacceptable for Pakistani society,” and negatively affecting the youths. According to the court orders, the censorship shall remain in place until TikTok strictly follows the guidelines set by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). TikTok was also blocked in October 2020. Pakistan telecommunication watchdog, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has admitted in the court blocking approximately 500,000 TikTok videos over objectionable pretexts. The Peshawar High Court (PHC) restored TikTok on April 1, 2021.
- February 2021, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ordered privately-owned TVOne to follow censorship guidelines for the TV show "Dil Na Umeed Toh Nahi," and demanded the details of the editorial board.
- February 2021, February 2021, a Jirga (a group of authoritarian men in deep-rooted conservative pockets) stopped women from receiving child care payments from the Citizen Facilitation Center (CFC) and calling local FM Radio stations in Bajaur District, part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. According to Jirga, either the grants were meant to be given to the men or the CFC staff to be all women. The Jirga announced fines for the locals who defy the Jirga policy. The area has been a hotbed and stronghold of Taliban activities. The local jirgas misogynistic decisions and restrictions of freedom signify the reality that the Taliban and their supporters openly defy the Federal Government and capable of launching offensives against citizens.
- January 2021, the Pakistan Electronic Media Authority Regulatory Authority (Pemra) suspended the license of the privately-owned channel Bol News and fined Rs 1 million for what PEMRA believed airing "contemptuous" remarks against the judges of the Lahore High Court (LHC). On January 13, 2021, the anchorperson Sami Ibrahim debated the appointment of the judges in LHC in his show Tajzia.
- January 2021, BBC announced the termination of the broadcasting Urdu news program Sairbeen contract with privately-owned AAJ TV. The 30-minute daily news bulletin was on air since 2015. The termination is the outcome of the unprecedented censorship and assaults on media freedom in Pakistan, while BBC termed it “interference.”
- January 2021, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) asked social media platforms to block the movie Lady of Heaven. The PTA termed the movie sacrilegious and said, “so far 336 URLs containing promo of the said movie have been reported to different platforms.”
- January 2021, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) suspended free WiFi service in Punjab province. The free WiFi was largely used by the poverty-stricken students, people, public places, Lahore Press Club, colleges, and universities. The government defended its decision by saying that the project was resulting in heavy financial losses.
POLITICAL PARTIES ATTACKS ON FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION - 2021
- April 2021, Pakistan’s National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior passed an amendment bill that made criticizing the armed forces a punishable crime for up to two years in jail and a fine of Rs500,000. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Amjad Ali Khan, had tabled the bill.
- February 2021, Saifullah Jan, a correspondent for the Associated Press (AP) in Pakistan, and a member of the Charsadda Press Club alleged that four armed men kidnapped and tortured him in the area office of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), in Charsadda, part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. According to Mr. Jan, he has been targeted in the past and the attack is retaliation for his filing of the police report. One of the accused Abdullah is the office-bearer of the local settings of PTI. PTI has not refuted the allegations.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION UNDER ATTACK ON CAMPUSES - 2021
- April 2021, the Islamia University in Bahawalpur (IUB) expelled at least four students for protesting over reductions of seats, scholarships, and facilities for the marginalized students belonging to the under-developed regions of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan province.
- March 2021, mainstream media overlooked protests and encampments outside the province Punjab Governor House over the abolition of the scholarships for the students belonging to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Islamia University in Bahawalpur (IUB) Punjab has abolished the seats and scholarship allocation meant for FATA students. After a month-long protest and five days of hunger strike, the Governor of Punjab restored the scholarships.
- March 2021, under enormous pressure from authorities, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) canceled a seminar recalling fifty years of the Bangladesh freedom (known as Dhaka Fall) from Pakistan. The universities did not provide reasons for cancellation.
- March 2021, the Kohat University of Science and Technology (KUST) enforced a strict Islamic dress-code for female students and faculty in Kohat, part of the ultra-conservative province of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
- March 2021, student Abdul Haq was killed and five more wounded in violent clashes among different student factions at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML). Pakistani educational institutions are facing increased intolerance for the students coming from the other parts of the country.
- March 2021, the University of Peshawar made the Islamic dress code mandatory for female students. The female students ordered to wear white shalwar (loose-leggings) and drooping uppers with a scarf.
- March 2021, the University of Lahore expelled a male and a female student over on-campus hugging. In a widely circulated and verified footage, a female student kneeled and offered a rose to a male student, who then hugged the female student while other students burst into cheers. The University alleged the occurrence as a violation of the University’s code of conduct. However, the University did not provide a copy of the written rules.
- February 2021, the University of Central Punjab (UCP) barred 19 students from final examinations and academic activities for protesting against the physical-presence in exams during the pandemic. According to UCP, “the suspension will last till the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings.”
- January 2021, Bacha Khan University in conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province enforced a religious Islamic dress code for faculty, male and female students.
- January 2021, within a week, police attacked, injured, and briefly detained at least 49 students of the National University of Modern Languages (NUML), University of Management and Technology (UTM), and the University of Central Punjab (UCP) in different cities of the Punjab province for protesting over on-campus exams during the COVID19 surge, better dorm facilities, tuition fee & internet disruptions.
- January 2021, the Hazara University Abbottabad enforced a strict Islamic dress code for female students and staff and banned jeans, T-shirts, tights, and heavy makeup. The University made Abaya (loose head-to-toe upper body cover) mandatory for females. The University also banned males from wearing tight and ripped jeans and male jewelry.
SNIPPETS - 2021
- March 2021, Transparency International (TI) sent a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan over COVID vaccine cost, possibilities of corruption and also reminded him that free vaccination is the government's responsibility
- March 2021, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) allocated a whopping Rs1 billion for the publicity of the economic reforms and counter the opposition. Many essential needs in Pakistan are put on hold due to the economic crisis. COVID vaccine is unaffordable for millions of Pakistanis, widespread poverty, and hundreds of Federal and provincial departments owe monthslong salaries and retirement benefits to their employees. The prices of food essentials, power, and patrol are increasing by leaps and bounds.
- March 2021, Salahuddin Ayubi, a member of the Pakistan National Assembly (MNA) representing the constituency of Kila Abdullah, NA-263 (province of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – KP) married a 14-year-old High School girl student. The marriage violates the law of the province where the legal age of marriage for the girls is 16 years. Mr. Ayubi belongs to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F).
- February 2021, police used tear gas, truncheons, and anti-terrorism squad against government employees and lady health workers protesting for a pay-raise in the capital city of Islamabad. One on-duty police officer died of inhalation. Later, the government agreed to the demands of the protesters; however, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, the Interior Minister of Pakistan ridiculed, smirked at the protesters, and defended the use of tear gas by saying, “we were just testing the tear gas.”
- January 2021, police attacked and injured at least 18 and arrested more than a dozen teachers in the Pakistani-controlled side of Kashmir. The teachers were peacefully protesting a pay-raise they were promised in 2013. Pakistani side of Kashmir has been nicknamed Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) by Pakistan.
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SUMMARY OF VIOLATIONS
May 2020 – May 2021
- May 2020 – May 2021: Ten journalists have been killed, independent investigation, family statements, and police report did not establish directs links between murders and reporting or journalistic responsibilities, but even so, they were all raising their voices and reporting on critical and dangerous issues.
- At least 52 occurrences of assaults, Arrests, and harassments related to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression, and Minorities compared to 41 incidents in the corresponding period of last year.
- At least 19 occurrences of Enforced Disappearances and Missing persons compared to 29 incidents in the corresponding period of last year while many cases were not reported.
- At least 55 occurrences of forced marriages, forced conversions, and Blasphemy against Muslims and non-Muslim minorities compared to 26 incidents in the corresponding period of last year while many cases were not reported.
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Monitors Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression in Pakistan