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Tuesday 21 May 2019

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FILE: A journalist protest in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

In recent weeks, new pressures have been placed on Pakistan's once-vibrant civil society.

The government expelled 18 international NGOs and placed new restrictions on the leaders of the Pashtun Tahfuz Movement (PTM), a civil rights initiative. Pakistani authorities even called on journalists to make their reporting “more positive” in a media environment reeling from censorship.

These developments come after several years of Pakistani state crackdowns on dissent that have even resulted in weakening major political parties. The space for the country's liberal and progressive voices has shrunk considerably.

What explains these developments, and what does it all mean for Pakistan moving forward?

Panelists for this latest episode of the AfPak File Podcasts are Abubakar Siddique, editor of RFE/RL’s Gandhara website, Rabia Mahmood, a researcher for Amnesty International; Amber Rahim Shamsi, a journalist for Hum News; and Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia with the Wilson Center. Muhammad Tahir, RFE/RL’s media manager for South and Central Asia, moderated the discussion.

AfPak File Podcast: The Precarious State Of Civil Society In Pakistan
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The views expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

FILE: Asia Bibi

On October 31, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who had been on death row for nearly a decade on blasphemy charges. It was a milestone decision in a country where the law is often unkind to religious minorities. Islamist hardliners took to the streets to protest the decision, and eventually, they signed an agreement with the government that ensured that her case would be reviewed.

Bibi reportedly is out of prison but remains in Pakistan, where her life is in danger, while arrangements are sought for her to get asylum abroad. This latest episode of the AfPak File podcast discusses the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, and what the consequences are and will be for Pakistan.

Panelists included Mehr Tarar, an author and columnist; Madiha Afzal, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of a new book on extremism in Pakistan; Ahmad Shah Azamy, a reporter with RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal; and Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate for South Asia with the Asia Program at the Wilson Center. Muhammad Tahir, media manager for RFE/RL in Washington, DC, moderated the discussion.

AfPak File Podcast- The Aasia Bibi Case: Significance and Implications
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The views expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

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