“Media is drawing a negative image of Pakistan, it speaks bundles of lies and it shows a degrading picture of Pakistan to the whole world” and others were some of the sentences which the majority believed and still believe to be true in Pakistan. I beg to differ; media may be broadcasting out of context news, recurring telecast of a particular issue or exaggerating a non-issue, but it is showing only what actually is happening.
The torching of Joseph Colony of Lahore and a Dharamshala in Larkana, were not pictured scenes of a Hollywood movie. The taking over of GHQ, Mehran, Kamra Airbases were events actually happening, not merely fantasy of a rebel and also they were not a made-up scene of some James Bond series movie.
The happening or non-happening of an event or of a certain act compels the people to develop an opinion which they are entitled to express through the means of their convenience. The Constitution of Pakistan and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee in unequivocal terms the exercise of freedom of expression. The constitution – the supreme amongst all laws – loses its force when its provisions get mercilessly crushed; be it by a dictator, a powerful civilian or unknown terrorists.
The fundamental rights as given in the constitution consist of a long list of rights that are supposed to be enjoyed by the subjects of the constitution. However, the same are least protected and seldom enjoyed by the citizens. The Courts have been emphasizing the rule of law and supremacy of the constitution, which merely seem to be words of mouth having no practical application. The fundamental right of freedom of expression has become more or less redundant in the prevailing state of affairs. Freedom of expression without any hindrance is a sign of an intellectually developed society. But the fear of terrorists and also favor to them has led Pakistan to be an intellectually corrupt, morally senseless and religiously bigoted society.
Previously the masses had fewer forums to express their opinions but after the media revolution and especially after the rise of social media, every common person who has access to internet uses facebook, twitter and many other forums where one can speak one’s lungs out. The social media interactive sites provide customization of posts at the convenience of its users. Still, a user living in Karachi simply cannot openly and fearlessly express his political opinion against a certain political party. Similarly, one cannot express the disagreement with any political or religious figure. If done so then he himself will solely be responsible for the consequences. One cannot openly speak and write against the mighty and ruthless terrorists, political parties (including self-claimed liberal parties), religious heads etc.
Even the big media houses have started playing on back foot and acting cautiously. The fear of terrorists has engrossed the hearts and minds of not only investigative writers, editors and bloggers but also of the freelance journalists who have a say in their circle and whose opinion matters to their readers.
There are certain issues which require debate, deliberations, exchange of ideas and discussions for better formulation. For instance, in Pakistan one cannot speak about religious issues rationally. Rationality is equated with challenging the divinity, although speaking argumentatively opens up the minds and clears confusion. But unfortunately it is often regarded as blasphemy, stupidity or insanity which can even end up with death either awarded by the court or individuals acting as mob court.
Raising voice for the vulnerable and redressing the plight of fellow Pakistanis is treated as unforgiveable sin within the society if the fellow Pakistani is not a Muslim. However, neither Islam nor national laws restrain a Muslim from helping non-Muslims or speaking for them if they are being suppressed. But sadly the individuals who are self-acclaimed torch bearers of Islam want their followers to do what is directed by them, irrespective of what Islam lays down about it.
The so-called Islamic (read un-Islamic enactments) laws are not open to debate in Pakistan. Condemning the laws made in the name of Islam, which at the same time negate the basics of Islam, is implicitly forbidden. One who talks for amendment or repeal of those laws has to remember the fate that slain Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer met.
Non-Muslims are becoming second class citizens of Pakistan. They are denied the right to profess, practice and propagate their religion which is guaranteed by the constitution and protected by the Objectives Resolution of 1949. Qur’an also underlines the principle of religious independence, as the verse states, “for you is your religion, and for me is my religion” [109:6].
But one cannot show sympathy when the verse is practically violated in the name of Islam without setting the communities blazed. The ‘illogical logic’ takes the edge that a person of the community disrespected Islam. Since Islam is a religion of peace and the last Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is a universal figure, when it comes to tolerance, everyone should teach and practice tolerance, peace, non-violence and patience.
The society at large has to act as resisting force against the bigots who have and still want to silence the individuals who are vocal against them. The disagreement with the opinion of others needs to be taken as constructive not as degrading and should not be ridiculed. Fear may silence some individuals but it should not and cannot kill the collective conscience of the society. Only the practical enforcement of the fundamental rights including right to speak and express, can bring the storming change in the minds of the masses which is inevitably important for the grooming of the society.
”Still, a user living in Karachi simply cannot openly and fearlessly express his political opinion against a certain political party”
I am myself a Karachiite and strong critic of ‘that’ political party. I tweet against MQM, speak against MQM almost as easily as I can, about any other party. Things aren’t that abysmal in Pakistan, first off.
Like you point it out people have so many fora to express themselves. Citizen journalism is the new hot thing and with that, camouflaging or distorting the facts has become impossible, let alone shutting up someone once for all. Thousands of freelancers run their blogs, even more than them tweet or post political views on Facebook, how many of them have been killed or threatened actually? And even if they have had any ruthless opposition, how more relentless has that opposition been than branding the blogger as Taliban Apologist or a Liberal Fascist.
Once again, it all came down to that one blasphemy law. You are right that in Pakistan, one cannot speak about religious issues with Rationality. But, if the society was so intolerant to such ‘rational’ people, you wouldn’t have seen Dr. Pervaiz Hoodbhoy addressing a session at KLF. An acquaintance of mine at IBA has his own circle of friends who proclaim to be Darwinists. Amazingly, they are all alive.
”Raising voice for the vulnerable and redressing the plight of fellow Pakistanis is treated as unforgiveable sin within the society if the fellow Pakistani is not a Muslim”
But, when a church was targeted in Peshawar, no one deemed Jindullah/Junud ul Hafsa to be justified in doing so. The very religious zealots whom we eye with suspicion just because they are acquiring education at a Madarrasah were the first ones to reach for help.
”Non-Muslims are becoming second class citizens of Pakistan”
I am sorry, excuse me. Am I a first class citizen of Pakistan enjoying endless perks and privileges?
Pakistan is changing fast. People are becoming more tolerant day by day as democratic practices proceed. Consensus is being built by all political parties on national issues.
Now, allow me to exercise my freedom of speech and disagree with this article! 🙂
@Aamna I am glad to read your comment. To start, you might be aware that some of the political parties have a system of surveillance whereby they regularly check what is being said and written either against or for them. To me it is enough to establish its causing serious security threat to the users of social media sites who are critic of those parties.
The latest reported case of the kind is Ali Kamran Chishti (AK Chishti) who is a journalist and he published this blog http://akchishti.blogspot.com/2013/07/mqms-labyrinth.html which resulted in his abduction and severe beating. Please see the links below;
More or less was the case of Jasmeen Manzoor who dared to speak later on about her ordeal. Please see the link below;
Another case of speaking in Karachi was of Shoaib Burney, reporter associated with Geo Network. His only guilt was, he covered certain news and he had the guts to speak bluntly. See the link below;
So it was a bit of Karachi. Now let me come to other sacred cows that are immune from criticism. The famous case of Saleem Shahzad is not very old to remember. His story in Asia Times Online ended him up initially missing and then dead. See link below;
Like Saleem Shahzad, Umar Cheema was also left to die but he somehow survived. His only crime was being critical of a State institution. See link;
As I mentioned in my article the assassination of Salman Taseer is the worst case of intolerance. I may refer, he was killed for only he said the Hudood Laws as Kaale Qanoon. See link;
The only point I tried to make in the article was the growing intolerance shown towards certain issues and some individuals, which is a serious violation of freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Dr Hoodbhoy addressing a session at KLF is exceptional in the current situation because he must have been invited by the KLF administration to address the festival. He has not been so critical on religious or political issues with full of his openness. I wish and pray he does not meet the same fate as of already ousted.
After all who torched the Church in Peshawar and Dharshala in Larkana and Hyderabad? The one who have majority of sympathy from us (Muslims) and are deemed as saviors of Islam.
When Muslim is a second citizen, non Muslim is way behind them. Your point says it all.
I am again very thankful of your feedback. I hope I have replied the questions you raised.
Brother tell me what are the laws for freedom of speech that are followed in pakistan
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