Pakistan president Asif Zardari bans jokes ridiculing him – Telegraph: “Pakistan president Asif Zardari bans jokes ridiculing him
Pakistan’s president, Asif Zardari, has been accused of suffering from a sense of humour failure after banning jokes ridiculing him.
By Isambard Wilkinson in Islamabad
Published: 7:04PM BST 21 Jul 2009”
Pakistanis who send jokes about Asif Zardari by text message, email or blog risk being arrested and given a 14-year prison sentence.
The country’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, announced the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had been asked to trace electronically transmitted jokes that “slander the political leadership of the country” under the new Cyber Crimes Act.
Mr Malik, said the move would punish the authors of “ill motivated and concocted stories through emails and text messages against the civilian leadership”.
The step, which was described by human rights groups as “draconian and authoritarian”, came after government was particularly riled by a barrage of caustic jokes being sent to the presidency’s official email.
Critics have accused the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), a party that espouses a liberal agenda, of stooping as low as the former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, who took television broadcasters off air when he faced political opposition.
Mr Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, has long courted controversy.
During his wife’s two tenures he earned the nickname of “Mr 10 per cent” on account of his alleged penchant for demanding kickbacks on government contracts.
A former polo-playing playboy, Mr Zardari has proved to be prickly about what others say of him since he was elected as president by the national parliament a year ago.
Most of the criticism stems from his government’s inability to address problems such as severe power outages and inflation, and his inability to shake off old allegations of corruption.
Mr Zardari’s thin-skin when it comes to jokes has forced Pakistanis to find other ways to refer to the president, with nicknames ranging from “dacu” or “bandit” to chief choor, meaning thief.
The ban has become the focus of intense television debate in Pakistan, as Mr Zardari’s aides have attempted to justify the move using every argument ranging from counter-terrorism concerns to saying that women parliamentarians had received abusive messages.
The prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, with whom Mr Zardari has clashed, has distanced himself from the ban saying that it would not be enforced.
Mr Zardari’s PPP-led government tried to target text messages and emails last month when it levied a new tax on all text messages.
The tax was abandoned after it emerged that it would ruin a major source of revenue for Pakistan’s five mobile phone companies.
As soon as the tax was announced, a text message began making the rounds saying: “The government has imposed a tax on all messages. This means that until now President Zardari was getting abused for free. Now he’ll get paid every time someone abuses him!”
* “Terrorists have kidnapped our beloved Zardari and are demanding $5,000,000 or they will burn him with petrol. Please donate what you can. I have donated five litres.”
* To commemorate the ascension to the Presidency, Pakistan Post has officially launched a new stamp. But the people of Pakistan are confused which side on the stamp to spit on.
* Robber: “Give me all your money!”
Zardari: “Don’t you know who I am? I am Asif Ali Zardari.”
Robber: “OK. Give me all my money”