ISLAMABAD: The country’s major opposition parties see a “systematic and planned campaign” behind circulation of rumours about imposition of some kind of an emergency in the country and ongoing talk in social and mainstream media in favour of presidential form of government.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) suspect that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is behind such a “campaign” to distract the people’s attention from real issues and its failure on every front.
This perception, however, was categorically refuted by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, who termed the speculation about emergency or presidential form of government a part of “fake news culture” prevailing in the country thanks to some YouTubers and V-loggers.
Amid this gossip, the members of the joint opposition on Wednesday submitted a resolution to the National Assembly Secretariat expressing the resolve to uphold and strengthen the federal parliamentary system in the country as provided in the 1973 Constitution.
Fawad terms it part of ‘fake news culture’
Ahsan Iqbal, the PML-N secretary general, posted an image of the hand-written resolution signed by members belonging to almost all opposition parties in the assembly on his official social media account on Twitter with the caption “let’s see if it comes on the assembly’s agenda on Friday or not”.
“When the government, imposed through rigged elections, has ruined the country, then whisperings of imposition of an Indira Gandhi-like emergency and change in the system through various formulas are being heard,” wrote Mr Iqbal on his Twitter handle.
Mr Iqbal was referring to the imposition of emergency in India by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi on June 25, 1975. It remained in force till March 21, 1977.
This emergency is regarded as the darkest chapter in the history of democratic India as during this period the country saw a crackdown on civil liberties and stifling of dissenting voices. This emergency had also been reportedly imposed by Ms Gandhi after a court had convicted her on charges of rigging in elections.
During an informal chat with reporters on Wednesday, PPP MNA Dr Nafisa Shah said it seemed that the government itself was behind this campaign to divert the attention of the public ahead of the opposition-announced long marches. She said the people of this country were in pain due to the bad performance of the present government in every field.
“The government’s Gestapos and state machinery are behind it (campaign). Those doing it in the media should refrain from it,” she said.
Terming it a “drama” and “gimmick”, the PPP MNA “condemned” the campaign and vowed to defend the country’s federal parliamentary system as enshrined in the 1973 Constitution.
“If anyone tries to play with the country’s sacred Constitution, he will receive a befitting reply,” she said.
The PPP MNA regretted that starting from the social media, the campaign had now reached the main media as discussions were taking place on the issue of presidential form of government. She said it had been a “settled issue” since the creation of Pakistan in 1947 that the country would have a federal parliamentary system. The Constitution, she said, provided complete structure of the federation and parliament and this was a “red line” which no one could cross.
When contacted, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry regretted that it had become a tradition that two or three people talked about such things on YouTube and from there it went viral through WhatsApp and then finally newspapers and TV channels also started reporting them.
“This is the actual fake news cycle with which we have a problem and media wants to promote it,” he said, while denying the impression that the campaign had anything to do with the government policy.
“There are thousands of options available on YouTube and everyone has access to it. There are people who want to keep themselves alive on YouTube and WhatsApp,” he added.
“The problem is that in Pakistan the fake news has become a culture through YouTube and WhatsApp and no one is allowing the government to bring legislation to end this culture,” he said, alleging that the media groups in the country were “encouraging” this culture.
“Even the newspaper like Dawn writes an editorial on fake news and writes on PMDA bill without realising that no such law exists,” he said while referring to the criticism on the government for suggesting formation of Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) to regulate all the media, including the social media. The proposal to set up the media authority had been rejected by all media and journalists’ organisations and later the government claimed that it had not yet drafted any such bill.
Talking to Dawn, All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) President Sarmad Ali defended the stance taken by the media and journalists bodies and said that the information ministry had shared a concept paper with the media bodies. He said the concept paper almost carried the same points which they later found in the draft of an ordinance which was being circulated in the social media at that time “so it will probably be wrong to say that no such ordinance existed” as there was a strong resemblance between the two documents.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2022