At SZABIST, the students held a candlelight vigil in memory of those slain in the name of blasphemy.
Over the last month a Christian couple in the town of Kot Radha Kishan, some 60 kilometers southwest of Lahore were beaten and burnt to death after they were accused of blasphemy by their creditor, which was followed by another horrifying and deplorable incident in Gujrat where a man in police custody was hacked to death by an axe wielding police officer, again in the name of blasphemy.
Below is the speech I gave at the occasion.
We have all gathered here today because we chose to not to remain silent on the brutal murder of Shama and Shehzad.
They both were burnt alive in the same place where they worked all their lives as a bonded labor.
That fateful day, it wasn’t just the two of them who were killed: Shama was four months pregnant.
But this isn’t about just these two.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, between 1st January 2013 and 31st December 2013, there were 540 ‘victims’ of blasphemy.
When we step into law school, in the first year we are taught about the values of Rule of Law; that no one is above the law. We are taught that no one can be sentenced or punished without due process of the law.
Sadly, 540 fellow citizens were condemned to their horrifying deaths last year by mobs, by lunatics, by murders, after they were accused of blasphemy. In this country, as rule of law erodes, we are facing increasing incidents of extra-judicial killings, vigilante justice and rising crime.
Yes, it is a crime to take someone’s life. Yes it is a crime to burn someone alive, or to hack someone to death. Sadly this has happened over the past week in our country.
This is a country, where even lawyers are killed for defending a blasphemy accused in a court of law, where politicians calling for reform of these laws are killed. I am talking about Rashid Rehman, a lawyer murdered because he was defending a blasphemy accused in court, I am talking about Salaman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.
We all agree that this heinous crime must not go unpunished. We wish to see these killers being brought to justice.
Because as the saying goes:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
So yeah, the three day adventure is now over! SM-MUN III came to a fabulous end on Sunday evening.
Most of you know about my special attachment to SM-MUN: I started it two years ago and was its founding President, and was Honored by the school by being appointed the President again this year when SM-MUN went external. The Senate of Pakistan happened for the very first time in an MUN, ever, at SM-MUN this year.
Why did I choose the Senate as a specialized committee for SM-MUN? I wanted all the participants to learn about how laws are made in Pakistan. I wanted to spread political awareness, I wished to educate them all on how this country runs.
Honestly, I had a great time at SM-MUN. I couldn’t have a better person to chair besides me than Waleed, and I mean it. Our ACDs Danish and Arooba, were both really wonderful, and we got some really great help from Jazib and Sarosh. A very special thanks to Sarosh for designing the Party flags for us. I’d also like to acknowledge the volunteers and photographers who were part of our committee, and made our experience just the way it was. I’m really sorry if I couldn’t acknowledge you by mentioning your name directly, the reason being I do not wish to list the names of everyone for the fear of missing out someone.
The entire Senate of Pakistan deserves a shout out for being the best committee in SM-MUN!
Heartiest congratulations to those who won an award:
Umer Kazi, Marvi Ali, Rida Sheikh and Ayla Saeed for winning the Best Delegate award;
Laiba, Anas, Elia, Zain-ul-Abideen and Taha Waqar for securing the Honorary Mentions;
Durran, Usama Hameed and Faiza for the receiving the Special Mentions; and
Hina for the Best Position Paper award.
Now a little on how the awards were decided. Waleed and I took the long and hard decision along with Danish, Arooba and Jazib, and in the presence of Sarosh and two volunteers who had spent the most time in our committee.
I had to fight long and hard with Haris to increase the Best Delegate awards from 2 to 3 and then 4. We took into consideration the performance of the participants during all the three days, with equal importance given to their performance in the Moderated and Un-moderated Caucuses, the Speakers List and the Diplomacy shown outside the Committee Sessions with Special importance given to their performance in the Crisis. We took our decision in a very transparent and democratic manner, taking into account inputs from everyone member of the dias to eliminate any form of bias or unfairness.
In the end, I’d just say that SM-MUN III was a remarkable experience and would always be treasured piece of memory.
Ahmer Jamil Khan
Chairman of the Senate
President SM-MUN III
Every year Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day with renewed sense of ‘patriotism’ and great enthusiasm and zeal. This ‘patriotism’ is limited to love of flying the National flag and decorating residences with miniature flags.
This year, a very small minority took parts in ‘Azadi‘ and ‘Inqilab‘ marches from Lahore to Islamabad, in an attempt to de-seat the democratically elected government.
Those few aside, the Independence Day was marked with celebrations in schools, colleges and universities in the morning, parades and flag hoisting ceremonies elsewhere in the morning. Unfortunately, these brief moments of national pride were masked on prime time television by these marches.
Here in Karachi, restaurants offering breakfast and brunch were jam packed in the morning and early afternoon, and malls, beaches and large public parks were crowded during the day and the evening. People from all over the city were enjoying the Independence Day in their own unique ways.
I went out with some friends for breakfast at around 10:30 AM – not my usual breakfast time. The place we had decided upon had more people present than the chairs they had, and unfortunately for us, we were amongst those who were without it. After some waiting, we managed to be seated along with two other strangers, had breakfast with them and split the bill. Most of this time was not spent eating or chatting, but rather calling out for the waiters to be served.
My friend had parked his car right under a “No Parking” sign. When I jokingly pointed that out, he pointed out the National Flag fixed right above the sign. “Can’t you see? This is Pakistan” he jokingly replied. There were a few dozen cars already parked in front of those three “No Parking” signs.
For breakfast we had Halwa Puri and then went to a nearby milk shop and got ourselves a tall glass of lassi. After our breakfast, my friend remarked that we were the ones actually celebrating Independence Day, since we had breakfast with two strangers – unknown Pakistanis.
Later during the day, I could see quite a lot of patriotic posts on social networking websites; the patriotic content including “Happy Independence Day” was much, much more than what could be observed on Twitter regarding these two marches.
Oh, just so you know, some PAT workers replied to my tweet regarding Qadri’s comeback, most of their messages were nonsense repetitions of a simple (false) statement, containing #hashtags which they wished to trend.
Some local malls had declared “Family Day” – a cunning expression that means females only, and males might be allowed inside if accompanied by females. One such mall was the Dolmen City Mall in Clifton where I happened to go.
The mall was decorated in Green and White, with a crescent and a star hanging high above. Some people had painted the flag on their faces. There were cutout portraits of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan and Fatima Jinnah around the mall. Many people were actually queuing up to take a picture of their kids with them.
The background music in the mall were patriotic songs and even the instrumental national anthem. Most of all, there were Azadi discounts, ranging from 10% to 50% on many outlets in the mall – perhaps that was the main attraction that day.
The day ended in a grand fireworks show – a rarity in our country. Well the show was privately organized and not by the Government as is the case around the world.
As the day, and its celebrations ended, and the clock struck midnight, the date changed to 15th August 2014. The real Independence Day of Pakistan. This day was only celebrated in India as their own Independence Day, which in fact was the day when Pakistan and India, both, came into existence. Here in Pakistan, things went quitter.
 – Azadi – آزادی – Independence: A caravan of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) workers lead by Imran Khan.  – Inqilab – انقلاب – Revolution: A caravan of Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) activists lead by Tahir-ul-Qadri.
You rallied for change just a year ago in the 2013 General Elections. Your party bagged 7.7 million votes in the General Elections, which set your party as the 2nd most popular party based on the number of votes it received.
Your call for change came at a time when the Election Commission, and the returning officers were screening potential candidates, and many were disqualified on the grounds that they evaded and did not pay taxes, and utility bills. 7.7 million Pakistanis pinned their hopes to your call for a change.
Unfortunately, this change seemed to be just another election buff. After the elections your party rejected the results, protested, and made government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
I would like commend your party’s policies on improving the educational infrastructure and the quality of education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Credit should be given where it is due.
However, your attitude and actions have shown that you too, sir, are one of those elites who bend the law and Constitution to use it to their advantage. You and your party is not respecting the mandate given to your political opponents; you have shown yourself to be no better than those who were totally rejected by the electorate.
You had made a promise of holding local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within three months. It has been over a year now, and your promise has been just mere words. Is this call for Change just as another hollow promise?
The Azadi March which you and your party came up with had dubious goals initially, and later on you settled upon asking a democratically elected Prime Minister to resign, threatening civil disobedience and public disorder. This is clearly against the law, and the Constitution. This, as defined by Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution, is a ground for disqualification for members of the Parliament.
While protesting peacefully and without arms is a fundamental right of assembly under Article 16 of Constitution, this does not cover attempts to overthrow a democratically elected government, which may be classified as treason. Your actions not just undermine the rule of law, but also violate the laws of our country, and our Constitution.
So, at this point, sir, I am left with some questions unanswered:
Would the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa promote civil disobedience and non-payment of utility bills and taxes as a Government policy?
Would the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa not collect GST and other provincial taxes, or would it be hypocritical at this point?
What difference, if any, remains between yourself and your party’s lawmakers who would not pay taxes and utility bills and those prospective candidates who were rejected by the returning officers for evading taxes and for non-payment of utility bills?
If this civil disobedience and public disorder initiated by your party leads to disqualification of PTI lawmakers, including yourself, under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution, would you still blame it on this democratic government?
Would you still blame the Punjab police for public disorder in the Capital which would undoubtedly result in PTI’s march towards the Red Zone?
The election reforms you seek are a welcomed change. However this change should come from your elected position in Parliament as a lawmaker and not from a show of force of your street power while laying a siege to the Parliament.
Whether General Pervez Musharraf’s régime was beneficial to Pakistan or was it tantamount to destruction of the democratic process, whether or not he was a good dictator; it is all a debatable matter. He, for the first time in Pakistani history, is going to trial for the heinous crime of High Treason.
Pakistani history is marred with the military’s interference in Politics, so much so that out of 12 holders of the office of the President, 4 were serving Generals of the Pakistan Army, who came to power as a result of a coup d’état, overthrowing a legitimately elected government. Even the inaugural holder of the office of the President of Pakistan was a retired army General.
The takeovers were prohibited under the Constitution of Pakistan, and so these Generals, excising their military might, not legal authority, to suspend or hold in abeyance the Constitution of Pakistan, make amendments to it in attempts to legitimize their rule. This act, as defined in the constitution, is an act of High Treason.
Article 6 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan states:
6. High Treason (1) Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason. (2) Any person aiding or abetting or collaborating the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason. (2A) An act of high treason mentioned in clause (1) or clause (2) shall not be validated by any court including the Supreme Court and a High Court. (3) Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) shall by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason.
From the words of the constitution, it is quite apparent that not just Musharraf, but all these Generals committed an act of High Treason by abrogating and subverting the constitution; Musharraf did this twice. The punishment for high treason as mentioned by Article 6 clause (3) of the constitution was provided by the Parliament a month after the constitution itself was enacted, under the short, 3 Section long, High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973 (LXVIII OF 1973). Section (2) of this Act states:
2. Punishment for high treason, etc.: A person who is found guilty (a) of having committed an act of abrogation or subversion of a constitution in force in Pakistan at any time since the twenty‑third day of March, 1956; or (b) of high treason as defined in Article 6 of the Constitution, shall be punishable with death or imprisonment for life.
Life imprisonment or death: High treason is a serious crime. It is perhaps the gravest of offences. Why then, one may wonder, Yahya Khan and Ayub Khan walk away without ever being reprimanded for their crimes against Pakistan? And what took it so long for the trial of Musharraf to commence after he had stepped down?
The answer is: The Pakistan Army is really really strong. These men took power when they were serving as the Army’s Chief of Staff, and used their position of power to command the Army to do their biddings. The Army protects its servicemen even after their retirement, and so Musharraf had a cover. Musharraf resigned in 2008 after the new parliament took office after the 2008 General Elections, and expressed its intentions to impeach him. The day he announced his intentions to leave office by stating that he had tendered his resignation to the Speaker of the National Assembly as under law, the man, in face of impeachment by the Parliament, was given a guard of honor by the Army before he left for the United Kingdom to seek refuge from the cases against him since his Presidential immunity lapsed upon resignation.
He spent about 5 years in self exile, and returned when his daughter was able to secure Protective Bail for him from the Sindh High Court; there were arrest warrants pending against him. He came during the time of elections when a caretaker Government was in office for the purpose of the conduct of the 2013 General Elections. When the Islamabad High Court had canceled his bail in a case, his security staff, comprising of military and paramilitary personnel, escorted him away from the court room even though the Police officials in the court room were ordered to arrest him.
When he finally surrendered, his farmhouse (a mansion) was converted to a sub-jail, probably to cut costs on providing him protection: he has angered many people by his constitutional and unconstitutional moves while holding the office of the President. This was the first time, a former army General was arrested, that too the former Chief of Staff.
Musharraf was arrested in multiple cases: Assassination of Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Murder of Former Balochistan Governor and Chief Minister Nawab Akbar Khan Bhugti, the Lal Masjid Operation and Judges’ Detention Case.
The last of these cases occurred when Musharraf proclaimed a state of emergency and suspended the Constitution of Pakistan for a second time. It is pertinent to mention that he is the first of all military rulers in Pakistan to suspend the Constitution twice.
The Supreme Court, on a petition, asked the Attorney General for the Government’s response upon prosecution of Musharraf for High Treason. The Caretaker government responded that it was not its mandate to take a decision on the matter, and that the same should be decided by the upcoming government. The Senate in the meanwhile, and previously too, passed resolutions calling upon prosecution of Musharraf for High Treason.
The government of Nawaz Sharif, formed after the 2013 General Elections, within weeks of taking office through the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan expressed the government’s intentions to prosecute him. They wrote a vague letter to the Supreme Court stating the same, however it lacked instructions of commencing the trial.
It took five months, a sectarian violence in Muharram’s Ashura in Rawalpindi and a curfew in the Capital’s twin city, for Nisar Ali Khan the Interior Minister to announce at a hurriedly called press conference that the Government would be writing to the Supreme Court to form a Special Court under law for the High Treason trial. The announcement was described as a move by many to divert attention from the violence and curfew. True or not, the government through the Interior Secretary, wrote to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, with instructions to constitute a Special Court under the law for the purpose of the trial.
The Chief Justice in turn wrote to the Chief Justices of the 5 High Courts, requesting nominations of judges for the Special Court. Out of all the received nominations the Chief Justice had to select 3 judges for the full bench. Perhaps in order to avoid controversy, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Chief Justice, forwarded the nominations to the Prime Minister for final selection, and three judges, one each from Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab were chosen to hear the trial. Justice Faisal Arab of Sindh, being the senior most, will head the trial.
Meanwhile a Musharraf’s North America based spokesman lashed out at the government for the move, criticizing it as “undermining Pakistani Military”. He might have forgotten that Musharraf lead the Pakistani Military into an unauthorized warfare against India in the Kargil War from May – July 1999, humiliating Pakistan in front of the world.
Under law, the Special Court enjoys exclusive jurisdiction to hear the treason trial, and no other court, including the Supreme Court can interfere or intervene in its matters and proceedings.
The investigation in this case isn’t complete, and a member of the 4 man investigation committee said:
We would then be in a position to get warrants or directions from the special court for summoning the people who have evidence but were not cooperating at the earlier stage of investigation.
The army might not save his skin this time. A current serving officer of the Pakistan Army, stating that what he was about to say would be his own views not the Army’s since he is bound by the law, to not to make official remarks, while explaining the army’s current stance, more specifically on the War on Terror personally told me:
The Military’s internal policy has changed. It is no longer what it was during the time of Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf, yes I was in the army during those times. It is no longer like that, and I wouldn’t discuss that; currently the Army has just one mindset: we are subordinate to the Civilian Government. If we are ordered to fight, we will fight, if we are ordered to stop fighting, we will stop, no questions asked.
Is this trial too little too late, or just not relevant to the interests of Pakistan. Over the last few years, both Turkey and Bangladesh tried and sentenced to death their former military dictators and their abettors. Would Pakistan follow suit? Musharraf’s trial is not just about him, it is about the Rule of Law over any individual in Pakistan. If Musharraf is punished for his crimes against Pakistan, this would serve as a deterrent to future military ambitionists who aim to usurp powers like those before them. This should be done for Pakistan to evolve as a democratic state where the law is above all; it would officially mark a new chapter in Pakistani history, where the armed forces would be what they should have been: subordinate to the government of the people.
Before I begin writing this article, I must clarify, that the article below was not meant to offend anyone; I respect each and every individual’s right to have their own opinion, and their freedom of expression and association. The article also contains quoted statements and remarks of other individuals, whose opinions I neither endorse nor denounce.
In troubled times, the fearful and naïve are always drawn to charismatic radicals.
This strong, wise saying has stood the test many a times. People are, in difficult times, in a dire need of change: yes, just change, not giving though to the type and consequences and repercussions of such a change; the more radicals the change seems, the more attractive it is.
Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin and Barrack Hussein Obama all called out change to come to power, and indeed those were difficult times for those nations; I wouldn’t go on with history lessons here.
I’d rather talk about the “Tsunami of Change” that the PTI called out for when they were contesting the 2013 General Elections, the elections which brought them to power in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The PTI made tall claims to end corruption and terrorism in Pakistan: now of course the party may have come up with excellent excuse for the failure. Let’s look into these in more details.
Let’s be honest, PTI is not the liberal, vibrant, all-embracing party that many believe it to be and what it partially portrays itself to be. It is a fundamentalist party, or rather a confused fundamentalist party, who favor talks with the Taliban, to such an extreme, that the party failed to condemn acts of terrorism which claimed the lives of its own lawmakers and ministers. Ironic, but true.
The Peshawar Carnage, other terrorist attacks which kill innocent civilians, and terrorist attacks on the Pakistani Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies, all haven’t deterred the PTI chief’s determination to conduct peace talks with the banned terrorist organizations. As I had stated earlier, I see no distinction between this act and a sheer act of treason against the state of Pakistan. His determination is so strong, that he even stated that the TTP should be allowed to open up an office, for the purpose of the talks.
The backlash again this statement was so strong, that people went on to say that Imran Khan’s house is more or less an office of the TTP, and that the PTI itself is a political wing of the TTP and, I, too stated that the PTI is the TTP’s political apologist.
Ik shud offer CM house KPK as 1st office of ban TTP , zaman park 2nd and mianwali 3rd plus provide security to TTP offices wow wat a vision
When a US Drone strike killed the TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, a notorious cold-blooded terrorist, who proudly claimed killing thousands of innocent Pakistanis, the PTI went haywire. They, it seemed, had lost a comrade. The PTI chief Imran Khan, and the party’s leadership and government of the province went on to blame the United States for all of Pakistan’s troubles and said that they wouldn’t allow NATO supply trucks to pass through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, even if they had to loose their government for that. The reaction of the people become even more extreme:
Imran Khan/#PTI wasnt this furious when a Maj,General of Pak Army was martyred by those bastards of #TTP. Bloody Loser, terrorist apologist!
It now appears that the PTI may soon have to loose their government, if not because of their blockade of the supply routes, then definitely in the elections, due to angry and disillusioned Pakistanis who once had jumped into their bandwagon of “Change”. This is the beauty of democracy.
The reason for Pakistan’s problems, says PTI, is not the Taliban, or illiteracy, or power shortage, or natural resource depletion, or poor healthcare, or poverty, or lack of welfare, but the very fact that the United States is giving aid to Pakistan to overcome the above mentioned problems that the country faces. They go on to say that the War on Terror is not our war and that the Taliban, actually an amalgamation of Pakistani and foreign rebels, are considered by the PTI as our people, who are being targeted by Pakistani military who are fighting America’s war on terror. I sincerely hope the PTI leadership soon realizes that the tens of thousands of people who die in Taliban’s attacks are Pakistani and not American, and killing a human being is inhumane and barbaric regardless of the victim’s race, sex, ethnicity, nationality or cultural identity; and that a terrorist is a terrorist, whether they be Pakistani or foreign nationals.
In his speech on the anniversary of the TTP’s Karsaz Attack on Benazir Bhutto’s homecoming, the PPP chief, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stated his party would help the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa get rid of the “tsunami” – the PTI’s election call. It appears that all political parties are feasting on the shortcomings of the PTI government.
Another change the PTI has brought about on Twitter is that the freedom of speech is now quite restricted: “PTI Trolls” are quite famous on the social media, these are those who harass people ‘daring’ to speak out against the PTI point of view, or those who speak out on the folly and policies of the party or its fundamental ideology.
I had read the opinion of a fellow blogger, they stated that the PTI’s policies, although bold and innovative, which promotes home based small industries, and community based healthcare and education, but are actually practically impossible to implement, and if the PTI, by some miracle, achieves this, it will cement their victory in the next elections.
This however, is not in sight in the near, foreseeable future.
Whether the PTI succeeds in its stated aims and objectives is another story, but what the party has succeeded in is exposing the true face of the Taliban, increasing the hatred for the Taliban in Pakistan and for every fundamentalist politico-religious party including the PTI, and alienating many of the people who voted for them in the 2013 General Elections.
A suicide bomber blew himself up and took the lives of, as of writing this, 81 innocent civilians. It is one of the worse, inhumane, barbaric, cowardly act of terrorism on Pakistani soil. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, proudly claimed responsibility of this shameful, barbaric act, stating that this would continue if the United States did not stop drone strikes against Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives (read: terrorists).
The attack took place in a Church, on Sunday, when many church goers were packed into that place. The victims were ordinary human beings like you, and like me. Their tragic death shook the nation, and many mourned their deaths.
The Pakistani government did condemn the attack, but is still afraid of speaking out too much against these terrorists, and the government response stopped short of action against the terrorists to bring them before law. Both, the PML-N government at the center and the PTI government of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa failed to take any actions.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s, cold-blooded and indifferent attitude in the face of times when a person’s free will becomes their crime, their conscience becomes their sin and their presence at the wrong place at the wrong time becomes their punishment, horrifies many Pakistanis: many of those who voted for them in the 2013 general elections.
Why, one may ask, is the government so hesitant in condemning terrorism? The answer my lie in the fact that the PTI is too inclined towards the Taliban, promoting the banned terrorist outfit as “our people”, and has vowed to protect and shield them from a military operation by the Pakistan Army, or the US surgical Drone strikes, and the fact that the PML-N, a party whose leadership rose to prominence during the Zia-ul-Haq regime are too sympathetic to the extremists.
People voted for a “Change” and for the Sharifs, and here it is, though not quite the change they voted for.
Before you start reading, bear in mind that I do not intend to rant out my grudges against the injustices of our society or deliver more and more bad news, but I do intend to explore the solutions to the injustices in our terrorized society.
My 2nd day at law school, in the first class of Criminal Law, a sentence caught my attention:
Missing persons… Extra judicial killings… so many fancy terms… You are living in a country where there are massive human rights abuses!
Ms. Abira Ashfaq, our criminal law lecturer was referring to the situation in Balochistan more particularly, and the whole country in general. Every day the newspaper headlines read “Missing persons found dead in Balochistan”, this is, quite sadly indeed, becoming the norm, just like street crimes, car lifting etc., became the so widespread and common, that after they had dominated the headlines for quite long enough, the newspapers decided they weren’t newsworthy any longer. The same is happening with Karachi’s issues of target killing on ethnic grounds and extortion.
We aren’t just terrorized by the Taliban in the North-Western region of Pakistan, but by Baloch separatists in the South-West, our own security and intelligence agencies who overstep their authority, street criminals and gangs in our major cities, and our very own political and politico-religious parties.
Laws exist to safeguard the people, their rights and liberties, but why haven’t our laws been effective enough in doing what they were supposed to do? The answer: no one follows the law. When I say no one, I do not just mean the criminals out there, this includes each and every single one of us. Every day, as I drove down the streets of Karachi, I see people driving down the wrong side of the road just to save a few meters of distance, stopping their cars over the zebra crossing if they stop their cars at all when the signal is red. It is quite the norm for people to talk on the phone while they drive, teenagers, under the legal age to drive, are quite often seen driving freely, some teens even text message each other while driving, breaking the law and putting their and others’ lives at stake.
Why does this all happen in our society? I believe this is because each and every one of us, deep down believes that the law does not apply to them. Pardon the lawmakers for a moment please, it’s not just them who believe themselves to be superior to the law. Our elected representative, whom we choose to make the law, believe themselves to be superior to the law, same is the mindset of the bureaucrats, law enforcement agencies and their families.
Lawlessness is deep-rooted in the Pakistani culture and society. We cannot hope to change our society without first changing ourselves. We have to change ourselves: refuse to accept the lawlessness, stand up to injustice, and fix ourselves before we move on to fix our society. As the saying goes:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We have to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, keep a check on our lawmakers and those who have been entrusted with our security. To build Pakistan, and to rid it of lawlessness and injustices, we have to act!
The Internet has become an integral part of the modern world, so much so that a United Nations stated that access to the Internet is a basic human rights!
But the Pakistani government uses Internet censorship quite often to censor websites that may insult Islam, mock the government, expose corruption and inefficiencies of the government, excesses committed by the Pakistani armed forces, intelligence agencies or law enforcement agencies, separatist movements within Pakistan etc. In the recent years, this censorship has become widespread, and intolerable.
From social networks like Facebook and Twitter to Video sharing sites like YouTube and online music/radio services like Last.fm and blogging services and platforms like Blogger, all have faced the wrath of the Pakistani government. Sometimes the block comes through a Court Order by a High Court or the Supreme Court or sometimes through a notification by the Interior Ministry or Information and Broadcasting Ministry and sometimes even directly through the Prime Minister Secretariat.
Today I sent an email to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) inquiring about the legality of the Internet censorship in Pakistan. The query was an exercise of my Right to Information under Article 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan and the Freedom of Information Act 2002. Click here to download the letter in PDF.
Why did I do that? Well, frankly, I’m just fed up of a web page telling me that the website or the web content I intend to view is “not accessible” and that it contains “content prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan”. Who on Earth has the right to decide which videos I can view on YouTube, which music I can listen to on Last.fm or what files I can paste and save on PasteBin.com or which articles can I view on Wikipedia or which blogs can I view and read on Blogger or Tumblr? Someone who saw or read something that they did not like? Well, my tastes differ. I will not let ANYONE to decide for me; I am an adult, a taxpaying citizen of Pakistan. I have my own identity and the right to make my own choices. If someone has any objections to something on the Internet, PLEASE do not view that, but you have no right to stop others from viewing what you viewed and did not like.
Well, the Constitution of Pakistan and the Laws of Pakistan seem to suggest that such attempts of censorship are illegal; the International Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Pakistan is a signatory, clearly state that Internet censorship is a violation of fundamental Human Rights.
The United Nations recently declared access to Internet as a basic Human Right. In the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression report of 2011, the UN said that disconnecting people from the internet is a human rights violation and against international law.
While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, states have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely. The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The report further said:
The Special Rapporteur calls upon all states to ensure that Internet access is maintained at all times, including during times of political unrest. In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws.
I have started a petition on Change.org to make the Government of Pakistan realize that we stand firmly against autocratic rule and censorship! We need a free and open Internet! We hate censorship! We live in a democratic country, we have rights, a voice and opinion and a right of freedom of expression and choice that no one can deprive us of! I urge you to sign this petition and make our voice heard!