Saturday, July 21, 2018

Pakistan Elections 2018 Conspiracy Theories

What conspiracy theories are being bandied about in Pakistani media coverage of general elections scheduled for July 25, 2018?

Why are Jang and Dawn, Pakistan's top 2 media houses, promoting Nawaz Sharif and his supporters' narrative?

Is there any evidence of a conspiracy between Pakistan's intelligence agencies and the top judges in the country?

Is the speculation based entirely on history? If these theories are correct, what will be the most likely outcome of these elections? Which party will emerge?  Will it be the "agencies" alleged favorite PTI?

What office would PTI chief Imran Khan want if his party wins? Prime Minister or President? Will possible restoration of article 58-2B of the constitution mean Imran Khan chooses to be president with real power?

Faraz Darvesh, Sabahat Ashraf and Riaz Haq discuss these questions. First streamed live on Facebook on July 21, 2018.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

ISI Mea Cupla in 2002 Elections

Pakistan 2018 Elections Predictions

Free Speech: Myth vs Reality

Panama Leaks in Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif vs "Khalai Makhlooq"

"Genocide" Headline Skewed All East Pakistan Media Coverage in 1971

Strikingly Similar Narratives of Donald Trump and Nawaz Sharif

Ex CIA Official on Pakistan's ISI

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel


Riaz Haq said...

#Hope still trumps #despair in #Pakistan's democracy
#ElectionPakistan2018 campaign shows there are countless of people trying to bring about change in Pakistan, indicating better days ahead for the country.

Pakistan's election on Wednesday has made headlines for pre-poll rigging, political engineering and the turf wars between the military, the judiciary and the politicians.

But the catchy negativity has clouded the energy and political awareness which can be felt from the streets of Karachi through the bazaars of Lahore to the tea stalls of Peshawar and Quetta.

I've covered Pakistan's elections for nearly two decades and each time witnessed much room for improvement.

This time though people seem a bit more aware, a bit more cognisant of the reality regardless of who they support.

That awareness and maturity seems like a sign for better days ahead for the nuclear-powered, Muslim-majority state, home to more than 200 million people.

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's former prime minister, has been found guilty by an accountability court and Imran Khan, his main opponent, wants to claim credit for it.

The battle for narratives which ensued was vicious, personal and uncouth. But when all the attention was focused on verbal attacks by point-scoring politicians, the youngest leader from the three main parties - Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and controversial President Asif Zardari, appeared to keep his cool.

To the surprise of many political boffins, he managed to pull crowds at rallies in Punjab and Sindh. But the biggest difference was his focus on substance, turning his attention to policies and remaining detached from personal attacks.

Although his party has been in power in southern Pakistan for decades and has a dismal record of providing the basics, but Bilawal's message seems to be of a new man taking charge with the will to improve things.

Another young candidate, in a political arena of seasoned politicians, is Jibran Nasir, who has been courageous in challenging bigotry upfront.

His campaign has been attacked by religious zealots but he seems to have maintained his composure and stuck to his message of promises to improve things for his constituents.

He is a rare breed of young politicians who entered the arena without any financial muscle, family or political backing.

Pakistan also saw a 12-year-old standing up to campaign after his father was implicated in corruption.

The young man and his sister became a symbol of resistance for the Nawaz league as they campaigned on behalf of their father Pakistan Muslim league Nawaz accused the national accountability bureau of being used as a tool to implicate politicians.

Qamar-Ul Islam Raja's father was arrested on corruption charges just one day after he became the challenger against the disgruntled former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar - who left Nawaz's party after the PML-N supremo insisted on challenging the judiciary and the military establishment.

In his speeches, the 12-year old dodged tricky questions and insisted on following the party line - not a small feat for someone his age.

Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal areas (FATA) will vote for the first time as a governed area - after seven decades of independence, this is no longer just an administered tribal belt.

This region witnessed unprecedented political campaigning. People can now vote for provincial representatives and elect their own local bodies. The biggest change has been in the security situation.

Even before the so-called US war on terror, this area was considered home to Taliban, al-Qaeda and fighters from Uzbekistan to Chechnya.

But after years of military operations, people have a semblance of a normal life.

Why is this significant? Because now tribal elders, drug lords, smugglers and all those who used to exercise immense control know the people can challenge them with the power of the vote.

Riaz Haq said...

Fake News Isn't the Problem. The Media's Credibility Is

(Fact Check site) Snopes founder David Mikkelson confirms ........“the fictions and fabrications that comprise fake news are but a subset of the larger bad news phenomenon, which also encompasses many forms of shoddy, un-researched, error-filled, and deliberately misleading reporting that do a disservice to everyone.”

Remember when we told you about Google’s plan to shut down fake news sites and how Facebook helped spread fake news by not filtering its content? According to myth-busting news site Snopes, fake news might not be the real problem at all.

In an interview with Backchannel, Snopes Editor-in-Chief Brooke Binkowski doesn’t place the blame for the spread of false news on social media or search sites: she puts it on the mainstream media. “The problem, Binkowski believes, is that the public has lost faith in the media broadly — therefore no media outlet is considered credible any longer,” Backchannel reports.

That faith has been lost as internet news sites have grown at the expense of traditional news media. “As the business of news has grown tougher, many outlets have been stripped of the resources they need for journalists to do their jobs correctly.” Backchannel reports. It's referring to widespread budget cuts in print and digital news media across the country, from media giants like Hearst and Salon to local papers. These budgets cuts not only reduce the number of reporters on staff, but also editors, fact checkers and other staffers who can help catch mistakes. Binkowski, who is an award-winning journalist, puts it this way: “When you’re on your fifth story of the day and there’s no editor because the editor’s been fired and there’s no fact checker so you have to Google it yourself and you don’t have access to any academic journals or anything like that, you will screw stories up.”


While the mainstream media does print corrections when they find errors, they are often small and not publicized. That is a perfect storm for breeding mistrust in consumers -- and it is why over 60% of Americans don’t trust mainstream media according to poll company Gallup.

So what’s the solution to rebuilding trust in news? “The solution to this problem isn't less content; it's better curation,” Queens College professor Brian Hughes told CNN. He explains:

In the 1950s, the FCC regulated the television industry with a program it called the "Fairness Doctrine." The thinking went like this: With only three networks to choose from, viewers needed reliably balanced news and opinion. So, if a television station aired one perspective on a controversial topic, it was obliged to air an opposing view. As a country, we should look at the possibility of adopting a digital equivalent to the Fairness Doctrine.

Until that happens, we’ll just have to be savvy media consumers and learn to spot fake news. Thankfully, according to Binkowski, it’s really easy to spot. “'Honestly, most of the fake news is incredibly easy to debunk because it’s such obvious bullshit,” she says. “A site will have something buried somewhere on it that says, ‘This is intended to be satire. Don’t sue us,’” Backchannel reports. Snopes offers a full guide to spotting fake news. Generally speaking, fake news is “fabricated stories set loose via social media with clickbait headlines and tantalizing images, intended for no purpose other than to fool readers and generate advertising revenues for their publishers,” according to Snopes.

Riaz Haq said...

I give a lot more credence to an independent observer like Sy Quraishi than the openly partisan voices in Pakistan.

#Pakistan free, fair and transparent polls saw no-holds-barred debates, brutal criticism of government: #India's ex chief #election commissioner Sy Quraishi. #PakistanElections2018

Former Chief Election Commissioner dispels allegations of malpractice in Pakistan’s election, saying most complaints were of pre-poll rigging.
The election in Pakistan in July was free and fair, except for procedural issues, says former Chief Election Commissioner of India S.Y. Quraishi, who was in Islamabad and Rawalpindi as a member of the Commonwealth Observer Group.

How was your experience as an international observer of the general election in Pakistan?
It was an interesting and unusual experience. We have been to many countries observing elections, but Pakistan was a different experience as it had a special significance. I went there as a member of the Commonwealth Observer Group, which is always headed by a former Head of State. This time, it was the former Head of State of Nigeria. In all, 15 members from different Commonwealth countries went to different cities in two-member teams. to Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Serious allegations of rigging and manipulation have been made by political parties in Pakistan, including the PML-N and PPP.
We heard delegations from all major political parties, the media, civil society and human rights groups to know their views. Almost all of them mentioned about pre-poll rigging. They mentioned about three main allegations — that many leaders were being made to shift loyalties through coercive or persuasive measures, the Army was being deployed in a big way and that media freedom was being curtailed.

What were your findings on these allegations?
Shifting loyalties is more a part of political engineering, than rigging. It can be through horse-trading, which happens elsewhere also. As we do not have any proof, we will never know what the exact reasons were. The media delegation complained about indirect pressure, but these were months ahead of polls. While we were there, we found no-holds-barred debates, often brutal criticism of the establishment, which never gave the impression of any censorship. Then self-censorship was alleged. Anyhow, in no way we could have cross-checked the veracity of allegations.

We kept an eye on Army deployments. A total of 3.71 lakh soldiers as against 4.49 lakh policemen were deployed. A major objection was to deployments inside polling stations, given that 40% of soldiers were reservists (retired) and the suspicion was that, now being a civilian, they could be affiliated to political parties. We talked to the Army spokesperson and the Chief Election Commissioner. They said in the 2013 polls, the Army was deployed outside 71,000 booths, but many complaints of rigging inside were received. Therefore, this time, deployments were also made inside polling stations, but under an overall command of the presiding officers.

How did Army personnel deployed at polling stations function under the Election Commission?
The responsibility of soldiers deployed inside polling stations was to report any malpractice to the presiding officer and if he did not act, the matter had to be reported to a superior Army officer, who would convey the same to the respective senior Election Commission official. Therefore, they were always under the Commission. Also, we found that the army also did not have any role in the transmission of results from polling stations, where ballot papers are counted in Pakistan.

Therefore, contrary to the allegations of rigging, the elections were free and fair?
The first person to complain about any malpractice is a polling agent. We all interacted with polling agents and asked if there were any such complaints. There were none … that is the best certification.