The Express Tribune Editorial 29 May 2021

Journalists’ safety


Just days after a bill for protection of journalists and media professionals was tabled in the National Assembly, a journalist and vlogger was assaulted in Islamabad – a safe city being monitored with the help of more than 1,900 CCTV cameras installed on different important and sensitive points. Unfortunately, Asad Toor – who was tortured inside his apartment this past Wednesday by three men wearing face masks – is not the only journalist who was intimidated in the federal capital in recent days by men yet unknown. Before him, two senior journalists – one of them receiving a bullet in the abdomen but fortunately surviving and the other kidnapped in the broad daylight to be released later – were inflicted on violent intimidating tactics to deter them from their professional responsibilities.
A police team has been constituted under an SP to carry out a probe into the attack on Toor, with the Islamabad Police saying that CCTV footage and all other resources will be utitlised to arrest the attackers. But the given that fact that there has been no progress in the cases pertaining to the previous two such attacks, the statement from the police seems nothing but a typical way of addressing what is deemed as a momentary hype. The journalist community however, supported by human rights organisations and other components of the civil society, are trying to ensure that the issue does not die down. They have been staging protest demonstrations in several parts of the country, calling for the arrest of those involved in the recent attacks on journalists.
While the federal government has expressed solidarity with the journalist community by condemning the attacks on them, it must ensure that the bill for the protection of journalists, which was passed by the lower house yesterday, is enforced in letter and spirit, on becoming a law, so that Pakistan is no more bracketed among the countries that are dangerous for journalists.



Faulty investigations


It is not rarely that judges and high police officers express their anger over faulty and slow investigation of cases. It is mostly investigation officers of cases who are blamed for delay in probing cases, thus causing avoidable suffering to the accused. This runs contrary to the legal dictum, “presumed innocent until proven guilty”. Recently, the Islamabad High Court has taken to task the Islamabad police over a man spending five months in prison for no fault of his as the investigation officer forgot the case file in a drawer, so he could not inform the court about the progress having been made in the investigation of the case. Upon being asked about forgetfulness, the IO said the file was in the Muharrar’s drawer. The judge said such lapses were occurring often and this reflected poorly on the performance of the police. Not only were investigation officers found to be slack in conducting inquiries, they also tended to blame courts if the accused were acquitted due to faulty investigations.
The IHC judge warned investigation officers to avoid delays in probing cases and ensure prompt and transparent inquiries. Cases abound where delays on the part of investigation officers and due to faulty investigations the guilty gets acquitted and the innocent are sentenced. The honourable judge was so annoyed with police personnel, especially investigation officers, that he said the police were now often found incompetent in investigating cases. Police personnel have become so overconfident that they did even apprise state counsel of facts of cases. Taking serious notice of the poor performance of investigation officers, the judge said if things did not improve, the court would summon the police chief. It is generally acknowledged that Pakistan’s justice system is flawed. Both criminal and civil justice systems need to be reformed. At present it is because of the flaws that innocent men and women are wrongly convicted and the guilty are acquitted. In the process, many lives are destroyed.



Visit of UNGA president


The President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) made a strong endorsement of Pakistan’s efforts to draw international attention to the Kashmir dispute. In fact, it may be argued that Volkan Bozkir was actually pushing for Pakistan to be even more vocal. “I think it is the duty, especially Pakistan’s, to bring this [issue] to the United Nation platform more strongly,” he said in Islamabad, while also noting that the Israel-Palestine dispute and the Kashmir dispute have existed for about the same amount of time.
While many consider both disputes to be a stalemate, Bozkir also reminded that the Palestine issue draws far more international interest and concern, despite Kashmiris also living under oppressive conditions across the Line of Control. He was also critical of India’s efforts to change the legal status of the disputed region, calling on all parties to refrain from changing the status of Jammu and Kashmir and to aim for a peaceful permanent solution in line with international law and bilateral agreements.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who has spent extensive time with Bozkir in recent weeks, said he had briefed the UNGA president on the similarities between Palestinian and Kashmir. Qureshi called on the UN to do more and live up to its responsibility to help resolve the dispute. Bozkir was, meanwhile, impressed by Pakistan’s efforts in the Afghan peace process, noting his appreciation for Pakistan’s “efforts and hope that you will come with a success story”. He also praised the government’s anti-money laundering efforts and environmental reforms, specifically the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami initiative, and the relative success of Pakistan’s “remarkable” Covid-19 response.
Bozkir has been much more vocally receptive to Pakistan’s positions than his predecessors, and very likely, his successors. Even the most neutral diplomats have areas of personal areas of interest, and given that Bozkir is a former Turkish diplomat who also served as a cabinet member for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is unsurprising that he has concern for Pakistan. With less than four months left in his term, it is up to Pakistan to use this friendly relationship to not just draw attention but bring to the table international issues of concern to us.

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