July 5; A Black day in the history of Pakistan - PFUJ
On the eve of 31 years of the imposition of Martial Law by General Zia. the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) said that "July 5 is one of the darkest days in the history of Pakistan which literally sent the country into a `stone age', and the entire nation was still paying a heavy price for it."
In a statement PFUJSecretary General, Shamsul Islam Naz, said although 33 years have passed since the imposition of Zia's Martial Law, the whole nation is paying a heavy price inthe shape of menace of sectarianism, ethnicity, heroin, terrorism, Kalashnikov culture, corruption, rule of gun, lawlessness, intolerance, undemocratic attitude, nepotism, discrimination with women, minorities, media persons ruthlessly running all the state institutions for perpetuating their dictatorial rule by hook or crook.
He further said that “the entire nation sufferedduring Zia's Martial Law, legitimized by the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s judgment under the garb of so-called “law of necessity" which also gave a free hand to the dictator to unilaterally change and amend the constitution as per his dissertation”.
Not only this during his 11 years of cruel rule, Gen. Zia abrogated the Constitution and flaunted the law with complete impunity and not in a single case the superior courts dared to undo any of his orders.
“While this period may be remembered for its oppressive measures, including long spell of censorship, banning of newspapers opposinghis unjustified rule, arrest of Editors and media persons, awarding them rigorous imprisonment under Martial Law regulations and even whipping
them, it was also marked by memorable resistance put up by the media persons and press workers, led by the PFUJ and All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation (APNEC) with the active support of the trade unions, he added.
“Such a struggle was unprecedented in the annals of the 4th Estate the world over, and it began towards the end of November 1977 in Karachi, only about five months following the advent of Martial Law. The PFUJ's struggle was triggered by government's ban on publication of Daily “Musawaat”, Karachi.
After futile efforts to convince the Martial Law authorities to lift the ban, the PFUJ launched a hunger strike campaign in Karachi from December 1, 1977 and within eight days of the struggle in which journalists and press workers from all over the country participated, the Zia regime surrendered and lifted the ban slapped on Daily “Musawaat”, he added.
Owing to its oppressive nature, the government again took coercive methods against the dissenting press and banned Daily "Musawat", Lahore , and weeklies, "Al-Fatah", Meyar" and others, which were critical of the dictatorial regime.
After the failure of protracted negotiations with the government, the Federal Executive Council of PFUJ decided to launch a countrywide hunger strike movement from Lahore, commencing on April 30, 1978”, the S.G. PFUJ recalled.
The PFUJ leader claimed that the historic movement was spread over two stages: one beginning in Lahore from April 30 and ending on May 30 and the second beginning in Karachi from July 18 and ending on October 10, 1978.
The two had their own distinct and memorable features marked by a common inspiring spirit and enthusiasm. In the first phase in Lahore, the journalists and press workers, who joined
the hunger strike drive, were arrested and sentenced under Martial Law
Regulations for six months to one year rigorous imprisonment, including
the three, who were ordered to be flogged. Khawar Naeem Hashami, Iqbal Jaferi Hashmi and Nasir Zaidi were in fact flogged. The fourth, Masoodullah Khan was spared on the intervention of the doctor in view of his disability.
It was during this stage that after having failed to suppress the movement for press freedom. The military regime picked up the four renegades from the PFUJ to create a parallel PFUJ, a pocket organization known as " Rashid Siddiqui Group", who was given full publicity on official media supported the government and it condemned PFUJ's struggle for press freedom exposing their true colours.
“It was also during Gen Zia’s regime that ten senior journalists and office-bearers of the PFUJ belonging to the National Press Trust newspapers viz; Pakistan Times, Imroze and Mashriq,were summarily removed from service on the charge of signing an appeal for " Peace in Sindh " when the government persecuted people indiscriminately during the Movement for Restoration of Democracy launched in 1983.
Continuing, he said, that the era of Zia was callous and insensitive to basic human rights of the people notwithstanding its claim for Islamic justice. During his rule the most abominable version of the press censorship was imposed on newspapers wherein even Quranic verses and Ahadis of Prophet (PBUH)used to be censored if they reflected in any way on the person of Zia’s regime or his policies."
The PFUJ reminded that in the whole of the Zia Martial Law period, the owners of newspapers and the APNS played a very shabby role, and some political parties, out of personal interests, also supportedZia, which was in fact the main cause of one of the longest and dark era in country’s political history.
Unfortunately, those media owners who were known as his cronies owing to their hatred with Bhutto, tried to prove themselves “champions of democracy and perusing the principles stand” PFUJ asserted.
The PFUJ vowed that keeping in view the golden traditions would continue its struggle for freedom of press, expression, human rights, rule of law, democracy and economic rights of the media persons.
Shamsul Islam Naz Secretary General PAKISTAN FEDERAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS 12-Nazimuddin Road, F-6/1 Islamabad, Pakistan Phone Office +92(0)51 2870220-1 Facsimile +92(0)51 2870223 Cellular +92(0)300 8665523 http://www.shamsulislamnaz.com http://www.pfuj.pk