Police State – The New Norm in Pakistan


A typical Pakistani home receives news of political and social media activists making videotaped admissions regarding their involvement in anti-established order postings and tweets from prime-time news networks. The other piece of news could be about a march for those who have gone missing or a victim of excessive torture in the so-called “Judicial Remand”. Any student of mass communication is reminded of a harsh reality by all these examples of news stories being broadcast into homes: the nation, which came into being through democratic rather than armed means, is quickly losing its democratic credentials and is easily mistaken for any police state from the 1970s, 1990s, or present. However, the established pattern of the state’s behaviour plainly defines the imposing reality of hybrid arrangements overstepping, even though these incidents appear to be isolated occurrences.

He was assassinated in police custody at the renowned Lahore Fort by the then military regime of General Ayub Khan, who was Pakistan’s first well-recognised political prisoner. Later, it was usual to see a large number of journalists and political activists who had crossed the line and were being tortured while imprisoned. Veteran journalist Husain Naqi had the distinct privilege of being imprisoned between 1973 and 1979 by successive right-and left-wing established order regimes. After writing a story in 1986 about a Zia ul Haque family member receiving medical treatment overseas, writer Zafar Samadani of the Frontier Post was invited to see the head of a top intelligence agency. He was fortunate that those were still moral times when the established order was acting sanely and attempting to follow civil law. He was not added to the missing person’s list, and he was free to apply for other lucrative employment in the then-restricted field of print journalism.

When the PPP and PML(N) administrations alternated between 1988 and 1999, that reasonable adjustment was pretty much a given. Even the Musharraf administration was cautious not to upset the harmony between treating the entire country as a civic realm and treating it as a huge cantonment, despite its overtly military appearance.

The culture did not start to descend into a police state until the 9/11 incident. To join the fight for the missing individuals, Amna Janjua, a well-known torchbearer for the cause, had her episode of the family head pulled up off the air.

The deterioration of human rights norms in Pakistani society has accelerated after 2013 and continues to this day. Based on their ethnicity, nationality, or religious beliefs, it has not been unusual to see members of dissident communities and groups singled out or highlighted in red before being taken away without a trace.  The state’s organs under the authority of the established order have purposefully been hesitant to respond to the judiciary’s mild requests for the truth to be told, even though this sharing of the status is even incorporated in the Constitution.

It was a strange coincidence that the first victims of the established order were visibly emboldened to not answer to even the judiciary and to be further encouraged by the hybrid arrangement in place since the 2018 general elections were those very political trends that took pride in the “one-page doctrine.”

A guy on the street in Pakistan may easily see that there are forces behind the scenes that are in charge and that the front men are only dancing puppets, despite the country’s appearance of having a democratic form of governance in place.

One example is the current court investigation of Imran Khan’s aide Shahbaz Gill. The videos of his medical condition that are readily available on Twitter, the concern of his party, and the surprisingly low regard that his party has shown in defending him, all speak of a proverbial “republic of fear” syndrome that is swiftly taking root in Pakistani political and social culture (coincidentally, the title of a book written in the early 1990s about Baath rule in Iraq).

The treatment of the Khan confidant is reminiscent of the treatment of PPP/PSF activist Sohail Malik, who would have lived much longer had he not been subjected to third-degree torture in November 1992 by the PML administration of the time, led by Ghulam Haider Wyne.

The image is completed by the biased reporting on TV stations about people giving confessions, which, when considering Pakistan’s prevalent political and judicial system, are well extracted under pressure. A civic edifice that looks like sheepskin on a wolf who represents true power.

Concerns are raised regarding Pakistan’s current standing in the international community given the situation there and the lack of concern shown by international human rights groups and forums. Foreign policy experts may wonder where the international political grouping is headed in light of the RAF military transports’ ambiguous flight patterns between East European and West Asian destinations as seen in flight tracking servers and applications; Pakistan’s ambiguous character and role lauded by the Arab Sheikhdoms recently for no apparent reason, and the similar unprecedented honours bestowed on the COAS.

Without a doubt, the gradual economic recovery in Pakistan is reminiscent of comparable recoveries that economists have observed in countries like Egypt in North Africa. Egypt has been the West’s spoiled child ever since it joined the western camp following Sadat’s ascent to power in 1971. It has its own bailout and write-off programmes, but not due to any actual economic recovery like that seen in Thailand or Turkey in the early 2000s. The deep state in Cairo was just providing geopolitical services when it helped stage a coup against an elected president in 2013, slaughtered the major opposition group’s gathering, and escaped punishment from foreign observers and human rights groups.

Except for the Yemeni/Houthi campaign discussion in April 2015, international engagements are often resolved by one man without a public or legislative debate, and the results have mostly been disastrous. Internal repercussions might result from Pakistan’s suspected, hidden, or otherwise re-entry into another war theatre. The game of a monkey playing arbitrator internally supporting a beloved cat against the written-off one, the absence of political speech, and the practise of a form of McCarthyism that has long been outlawed in its nation of origin, can be politically damaging.

The future of society is unclear. Similar to what senior Iranian journalist of the pre-1979 era Amir Tahiri stated in his book on the events of 1979, that the real Iran was lost and the technocrats had a language stuffed with data, the country might reclaim a few economic indicators, which can make up for the symptoms of dissatisfaction.

Pakistan may appear idyllic from a distance, but up close, it resembles a rotting apple that has been overrun by ants. To prevent chaos or the collapse of civilization, the populace must rethink their role in the political system.

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