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Pakistani Officials Dispute Response To Reporting On Military Abuses

FILE: A photograph taken from a Pakistani army helicopter shows empty houses whose roofs have been removed by the army during a military operation are seen in the South Waziristan tribal district.

Senior Pakistani military and civilian officials have publicly disagreed over how to respond to a BBC investigation that uncovered alleged abuses by the country’s security forces, militants, and collusion between the two in the country’s western Pashtun regions.

A June 2 BBC story headlined Uncovering Pakistan's Secret Human Rights Abuses detailed several cases of civilian killings and forced disappearances in airstrikes, military raids, and possible cooperation between the military and the militants that were ostensibly fighting each other. All the cases were reported from Waziristan, a large mountainous region that remained a central theater for Islamabad’s domestic war on terrorism after 9/11.

The report did carry the military’s response, which called the allegations "highly judgmental.” The country’s civilian administration, however, did not respond to “BBC requests for comment.”

But in a June 3 statement, the Pakistani military’s media wing termed the report a “pack of lies.” The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), as the organization is formally known, accused the BBC of violating “journalistic ethos” and said that “the story carries conjecturing implicating Pakistan Army without any proof.” ISPR said the issue is being “formally taken up with BBC authorities.”

Shireen Mazari, Pakistan’s minister for human rights, went a step further. She accused the BBC of strong anti-Pakistan bias. “For us BBC could easily be Bharat Broadcasting Corp!,” she wrote on Twitter, mixing the organization’s name with Islamabad’s regional archrival, India. Baharat is another name for the South Asian country.

But Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s minister for science and technology, disagreed.

“We cannot blame BBC and other world media organizations to ignore Pakistan’s narrative on important issues,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Fact is our attitude to build capacity of information ministry to explain and respond to world media is seriously lacking,” he added. “Years of bad governance is reflecting in every institution.”

Chaudhry oversaw the Information Ministry until mid-April. In recent years, Pakistani journalist organizations and global media watchdogs have frequently blamed Islamabad for imposing unprecedented censorship.

The country currently ranks 142nd out of 180 countries listed on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

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