Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Pakistan
As of December 31, 1998

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As he faced the various crises besetting his administration, Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif displayed a distinct tendency toward authoritarianism. The government's extreme sensitivity to criticism had troubling implications for the press, which was also vulnerable to attacks from militant groups.

When Pakistan responded to neighboring India's nuclear tests with its own series of blasts at the end of May, the economic fallout was devastating. International sanctions imposed against the country for daring to push its way into the nuclear club led to a $32 billion debt burden, a radically devalued currency, and steep price hikes on most basic commodities. In an effort to minimize social disorder, Sharif declared a national state of emergency on the day after the tests were launched and suspended constitutionally established rights -- including the freedoms of expression and association -- along with guarantees regarding arbitrary arrest and detention. In June, a joint session of parliament approved the declaration and provided for its enforcement for up to six months. Although Pakistan's Supreme Court restored civil liberties in July, it upheld the emergency decree.

In November, in response to factional violence that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people in Karachi, the capital of Sindh Province and the commercial heart of Pakistan, the prime minister announced a state of emergency in Sindh. Sectarian violence in Sindh Province posed dangers for the press, with an especially ominous bombing in July directed against the Karachi newspaper Dawn, the country's most widely circulated English-language daily.

During the year, the government embarked on a systematic campaign of harassment to punish news organizations that challenged the administration. Among the hardest hit was the Jang Group of Newspapers, Pakistan's largest newspaper publishing company.

Also disturbing was the prime minister's push for a 15th amendment to the Constitution -- the so-called Shariat Bill -- which would give the federal government greater power to establish Islamic law in Pakistan. Journalists and human rights activists pointed out that Pakistan is already an Islamic state, and saw the amendment as an attempt by the administration to establish a dictatorship under the cloak of religion. Although the bill was languishing in the senate at year's end, some in Pakistan worried that Sharif's moves gave confidence to religious extremists, some of whom have threatened journalists for what they regard as anti-Islamic writings.
Attacks on the Press in Pakistan in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
12/17/98 Saeed Iqbal Hashmi, Mashriq Threatened
11/28/98 Naseer Ahmad Saleemi, Zindagi Harassed
11/26/98 Idrees Bakhtiar, Herald, BBC Harassed
10/01/98 Newsline Harassed
09/23/98 Saeed Iqbal Hashmi, Mashriq Threatened
09/23/98 Ayaz Ali Shah, Mashriq Threatened
09/23/98 Qaiser Butt, Mashriq Threatened
09/03/98 Zafaryab Ahmed, free-lancer Harassed, Legal Action
07/19/98 Ansar Naqvi, The News Hyderabad bureau chief Attacked, Harassed
07/19/98 M.H. Khan, Dawn correspondent Attacked, Harassed
07/09/98 Dawn newspaper Attacked
07/01/98 Jang Group of Newspapers Harassed
07/01/98 Maleeha Lodhi, The News Threatened
07/01/98 Kamran Khan, The News Threatened
07/01/98 Kamila Hyat, The News Threatened
07/01/98 Marianna Babar, The News Threatened
07/01/98 Kaleem Omar, The News Threatened
07/01/98 Beena Sarwar, The News on Sunday Threatened
07/01/98 Irshad Ahmed Haqqani, Jang Threatened
07/01/98 Mahmood Sham, Jang Threatened
07/01/98 Sohail Wariach, Jang Threatened
07/01/98 Nasir Beg Chughtai, Jang Threatened
07/01/98 Mudassir Mirza, Jang Threatened
07/01/98 Khawar Naeem Hashmi, Jang Threatened
07/01/98 Sohaib Marghob, Jang Sunday Magazine Threatened
07/01/98 Abid Tahimi, Jang Sunday Magazine Threatened
07/01/98 Sajjad Anwar, Jang Sunday Magazine Threatened
07/01/98 Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Jang Group of Newspapers Harassed, Legal Action

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