Pakistan government and army don't want Shias to highlight their massacres and persecution.
In the aftermath of increasing violence, terrorism, beheadings, missing persons, brutal killings of members of the Shia community, the Websites that carry factual information are more necessary than ever. The mainstream press either plays down the genocidal constituency of State-sponsored atrocities as “Sunni-Shia sectarian violence”, or no coverage at all.
Several of the videos and phone camera footages of innocents being murdered recently come to light through a number of Internet sites. These have been used to inform, warn and expose those responsible. LUBP and my own writing often consult http://ShiaKilling.com and other sites, to investigate fully data that are difficult to confirm statistically.
Body count has always been difficult to achieve accuracy for reasons not often mentioned. That is, fewer numbers do not always mean fewer killings – people are afraid to come forward. Even journalists are scared into silence. Saleem Shahzad’s murder by the ISI is a case in point. Intimidation is one of the weapons effectively used by Jihadists and their mentors in military establishment. Most violence is not caught on cell phones, is not seen by the public, human rights violations are often not fully recognized until the numbers in the hundreds reach, thousands, or more.
Before the closure of ShiaKilling.com, a website that monitors incidents of persecution and target killing of Shia Muslims in various parts of the country, Ahmadiyya Muslims’ websites too have been blocked by PTA (Pakistan Telecom Authority). The official website of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community http://alislam.org has also been banned by PTCL in Pakistan. Both sites belong to those who are suffering the brunt of the violence.
Meanwhile, there is no such action against websites of terrorist groups which are officially banned by the UN, USA and also, at least superficially, by the Pakistan government. These include the following:
Haq Char Yar (Official website of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi currently operating as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat): http://www.kr-hcy.com/
While the extremist, pro-violence hate sites listed above are being allowed to operate by Pakistan government, the Interior Minister Rehman Malik, President Zardari and Army Chief Kayani may be asked to explain what was wrong with the ShiaKilling.com and AlIslam.com?
Further, the usefulness of accurate pro-rights Websites and publication of facts can mean the difference between intervention and non-intervention, the reporting by Human Rights groups and the non-reporting- or, getting it wrong. In view of the evidence, the Pakistani government has seen fit to ban website http://ShiaKilling.com.
This is a new low in the world of Pakistan’s control of free speech- for a government to ban a non-threatening site dedicated to truth is a travesty, but worse, incompatible with Pakistan’s own obligations under international law and a violatation citizens’ rights of freedom of expression, access to information and protection of privacy. To ban any reasonable Internet site is a radical move in free countries. Usually population outrage accompanies such oppressive behavior unless out of fear of authoritarian governmental reprisals.
You’ll remember the PTA attempted to ban up to 1,500 words on SMS. Civil society, telecos and mass media coverage prevailed against this, so this is nothing new; should we expect more?
The Pakistan Constitution reassures society at large of the freedom of speech, with a caveat, of “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof…” seen below:
Article 19 of the Pakistan Constitution cites the following:
“Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.”
Further, the PTA at any time can determine through directives and legislation introduced such as the Pakistan Telecommunications (Re-organisation) Act, 1996 to criminalize vague and broad offenses, banning the dissemination of “false” or fabricated” content, and even the absurd concept of opinion-based language considered “mischief.”
All it takes is the Director General of (Services) PTA, deciding to ban or filtering content considered under the scope of “Protection from Spam, Unsolicited, Fraudulent and Obnoxious Communication Regulations, 2009″ such as the SOPs laid down to control spamming. Based on letters written with reference to meetings held with mobile phone operators in Islamabad. The latest revised regulation draft is called: “Protection from SPAM, Unsolicited, Fraudulent and Obnoxious Communication Regulation 2012” authority has asked the stakeholders for their input before it is made a policy.
In light of Shia massacres that are left unpunished by the same establishment, the portent of things to come, such as bans on Shia cell phones and Internet sites should have been obvious.
Over the years, laws have been abused by the Government to suppress freedom of speech by the indiscriminate and unlawful blocking of web pages, filtering of communications systems based on keywords, the stopping of internet services using encryption. Mass surveillance of communications systems has occurred and may be utilized with regards to certain minorities, such as the Hazaras, Shia Muslim sects, and targeted tribal regions.
Whether one is to believe the 2012 Index or not, of “Failed States,” Foreign Policy.com, July/August 2012, Pakistan is already listed just under Guinea and just over Nigeria (Somalia is listed 1st, Afghanistan 6th, Iraq 9th, Syria 23rd, Egypt 31st, Iran 34th .) It is just such events as the banning of freedom of speech that will put one on such lists, but, add: the dangerous game the Pakistan /ISI plays by protecting Salafist jihad organizations, creating and harboring Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) – Deobandi Sunnis, TeJ and LeJ all vow to rid the world of Shias, subjecting Muharram among other regions to violent sectarian mayhem, some with Saudi funding, and the ignoring of catastrophes against these minorities, along with nuclear provocations against India, that earned Pakistan the dubious distinction of placing higher than “in danger,” into the “critical range,” listed 13th on the Failed States Index. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/failed_states_index_2012_interactive
Pakistan now stands with so many other nations, Egypt, Syria, China, Iran, Cuba and many other oppressive regimes that ban the Internet, or alleged “mischievous” web sites that more often than not speak out against the establishment. To ban a site offering data that does not square with its military/security apparatus (9.3 critical rating of Failed States), the courts or the government falls short of common international standards of freedom of expression and freedom of dissent, which do not fall under concerns of protecting national security or public order.
Utilization of proxy servers IT experts and the technological savvy can still access information. Nations can no longer just shut down global information- try as it will. What remains is intimidation of media, journalist, independent analysts such as myself, my friends in Pakistan that have already been warned, and others- our vigilance to remain dedicated to truth in journalism remains in tact. Banning this site only adds validation to accusations of our previous articles and others based on investigation of factual data, made against the establishment, the mainstream media, and its allegiance (or fear of) the ISI and Pakistani military, and the Chief Justice and its system, that protects those who are currently responsible for these acts of targeted killings of Shias in an attempt to eradicate the entire sect.
The Pakistani government in doing so has unwittingly joined the SSP-ASWJ Deobandi terrorists Sipah-e-Sahaba, LeJ- Lashkar-e-Jhangvi who are forthright in one thing; they admit they are responsible for killing innocent Shias throughout Pakistan. Indeed, it is an important point to be raised that while the mainstream media is already censoring news on Shia genocide, the banning of alternative media may be a step towards future covering up of new atrocities, and indeed, silencing any stepping up in the wave of Shia genocide.
Consider the frightening prospects of a government bullied by the military and ISI that has such power given to it as stated in the following: Section 34(h) of the Act on “mischief” allows anything to be blocked without setting a standard. Section 54(2) of the Act – authorizing the shutdown of communications in an emergency, is not only dubious, but, could be used to stifle dissention of any type, and block information necessary for civil society to form conclusions as to the validity of government actions taken in a crisis- thus, there is no government transparency. Section 54(3) of the Act – authorizing the interception of communications comes with no detailed provision of criminal procedural code, gives unlimited banning potential that carries no checks or balances by an independent judge, or by groups that might lawfully challenge the government through its basic right as a free civil society.
The Act could decide to shutdown communications both individually with a vague warning, and in broader cases, based on a decree by the government of potentially the entire telecommunications networks of, let’s say, a province, Balochistan, or a sect, such as Shia communities. The allowance of interception of communications with little or no regulation or oversight create a frightening scenario for perceived future enemies of the state if in effect telecommunications users’ ability to seek and receive information is shut off. Authoritarian governments are known to routinely control society by blocking the flow of information.
This is not idle speculation.The Pakistan government already used these measures on the Balochs. Hundreds of Baloch websites and blogs have been blocked and more than a dozen reporters have been killed or tortured during illegal detention. The so-called liberalization of the electronic media still blocked Balochistan with the security establishment stifling communication as to realities on the ground there. This is happening as you read these paragraphs, some silently and unreported, others reported: http://criticalppp.com/archives/75775
September 2011 in Mastung (Balochistan), February 2012 in Kohistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and April 2012 in Chilas (Gilgit Baltistan), 3 April 2012, the Deobandi group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (currently operating as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat ASWJ) ordered several passenger buses to stop near Chilas, identified as Shiites all murdered in cold blood.
The most important evidence for genocide is not the numbers. Even a small population and be wiped out. The most important factor for genocide is intent. The Pakistan/ISI is either responsible or complicit by assisting radical Sunnis Wahhabi-Jihadists in carrying out a coordinated plan of massacres against the Shia sect. The intent is to kill as many Shias as possible, erroneously reasoning that the Shia Muslim sect is the natural enemy of Sunnis, the Pakistani government and are linked to Iran (all of these are falsehoods, or based on unsubstantiated allegations and unproven, false rumors). These are radical Jihadists, as the majority of Sunnis denounce this genocide, and live in peace among Shias. Therefore the state is essentially committing acts of genocide against an innocent Muslim sect – Shiite Muslims.
The state, the military and the terrorist organizations protected by them cannot silence truth, the facts will come out regardlesss of how many sites the government is pressured by the Pakistan military to ban. This is the age of Social Media, and facts have a way of finding open ground. So many centuries ago, it was stated: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” said John Adams.
About the author: Rusty Walker is a world-travelled, Independent Political Analyst, educator, author, Vietnam veteran-era U.S. Air Force, from a military family, retired college professor, former Provost (Collins College, U.S.A.), artist, musician and family man. Mr. Walker is an ardent supporter of Pakistan.