Virtual martial law in Pakistan: Pak dissidents

Virtual martial law in Pakistan: Pak dissidents

Representative image.

Noting that the space for debate in their country is shrinking, several prominent Pakistani dissidents currently living in various countries have gathered here at a conference to discuss ways of ensuring greater support for pluralist ideas, human rights, and democracy in Pakistan.

The two-day conference was opened by former Pakistan ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani and will end on Sunday with an event, a statement said.

Several participants including liberals and Baloch, Sindhi, Pashtun, and Seraiki described the situation in Pakistan as one of "virtual martial law."

Haqqani in his opening address said Pakistan’s democrats also cannot ignore human rights violations in neighbouring countries.

Attended by scholars, journalists, bloggers and social media activists, many of whom now live in exile, the conference is the fourth to be organised by South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH), a group of prodemocracy Pakistanis and is co-hosted by Haqqani and US-based columnist Mohammad Taqi.

This year, the conference size was scaled down as many of the forum’s Pakistani participants were "intimidated or barred from participating," the statement said.

 The prominent participants included former Senator Afrasiab Khattak, former Ambassador Kamran Shafi, former editor of Daily Times Rashed Rahman, journalists Taha Siddiqui, Gul Bukhari and Marvi Sirmed and activist Gulalai Ismail.

Earlier SAATH conferences were held in London in 2016 and 2017 and in Washington DC in 2018. 

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