Freedom Of Expression Or Well-Masked Oppression?


Not long ago, the majority of us were celebrating Independence Day with as much passion as we could muster; but the question arises, how free are we? It wasn’t long before the new Government came into power for the citizens of Pakistan to take to the streets once again. The people of Faisalabad were in outrage at the increased hours of load shedding in the hot summer days only a week after the PMLN Government had been elected in. Although this may have seemed inevitable, as we are a people that are never satisfied, what wasn’t predicted was the violence that the police would unleash on the unsuspecting protesters. Surely they were only exercising their democratic rights to protest and raising awareness for the injustice being done to them? The police, however, were nonchalantly brutal as protesters were attacked upon and all protests were halted. It was not only the streets of Faisalabad that witnessed such scenes but also in Lahore, and Azad Kashmir. Whether the protesters came to a solution and their demands were met, we do not know, but what we do know, is that the new Government was not fond of such public displays of objection.

Again the same situation was seen a day after by-elections, when dismayed Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf workers began their furious camping against rigging. The workers, along with their local leaders, came out onto the roads of Lahore on Saturday 24th August and blocked Mall Road with their democratic sit-ins. The party workers were prevented from staging their sit-ins and were told that a ban had been imposed from holding protests on Mall Road by the provincial government of Punjab, and therefore the sit-ins were illegal and had to be prevented. When PTI showed resistance to such a claim by the police, many PTI workers were arrested and violent clashes resumed between the party workers and the police. Is this what we are to expect now? That exercising one’s democratic rights has now become illegal? I am unable to understand how a universally known concept, such as democracy and the right to free speech, can be termed illegal under the sole condition that it does not please the new Government. In fact, one may say that such prohibitions are themselves illegal acts; first and foremost it is a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution, “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression…”; moreover it is a violation of democracy for prohibiting the exercising of one’s democratic rights to such an extent that violence is used against those who are struggling to raise awareness against the injustice dealt to them. If one is to compare the Nawaz Government to the Zardari government, one must sadly admit that, whatever the actions of the previous government, at the very least it did allow citizens to protest (even if the conclusion was not always satisfactory)!

This attitude of the new government, for silencing anything which it does not like, has seemed to reach new heights. Not 24 hours have passed since the Balochistan Government filed an FIR against ARY under the condition that ARY was an advocator of “Terrorism”; if the Government is to take action on such a case then we should expect our Television screens not to be graced by ARY again, for as long as the PMLN Government rule. The reason behind the filing of this case comes down to ARY having shown the video footage released by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) in which BLA openly filmed the steps that were taken before desecrating a national heritage, the final resting place of the Great Leader and the founding father of this nation, Qaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (May God bless his soul). What is shocking is not that the Pakistan Government is willing to take action against such a blasphemous act, but, it is more concerned in taking action against those who openly expose such terrorist behaviour. One must consider, where does the loyalty of our Government lie? Surely, the attack in Ziarat is enough to make our hearts bleed and to demand justice from those who dared to commit such atrocities? Sadly, it is only ARY in the line of fire. We cannot let our media become as oppressed as its citizens; if our media is also silenced, then perhaps our ignorance to matters which could make or break our nation may increase manifold and foreign hands will be free to rule the roost as they please.

jinnah1

To prevent ARY from showing the footage of the attack in Ziarat, Quetta, and to consequently ban ARY, is in complete violation of Article 19 and 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan. Article 19 states on the matter of Freedom of speech: “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press,” – the freedom of the press being the most noteworthy declaration. Furthermore, Article 19A declares on the Right to Information, “Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance…” For the nation to be told what happened to the house of our beloved forefather is of the utmost importance to the public therefore the general public, as well as the “free” media, have the right to access such information. This is complimented by the freedom of expression and speech of the press to make the masses aware of the situation within Pakistan. It is not ARY who is violating the Constitution by raising awareness on the Ziarat attack, but it is in fact the Balochistan Government who filed the case, and the Pakistan Government who may ban ARY, and perhaps Supreme Court for calling ARY to court, who are the true violators of the Constitution. Pakistan has consequently been split into two; one side supports ARY and one side does not. Those who support ARY are in essence supporting and defending the honor of Qaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader who fought to give us an Independent State in which we were to enjoy freedom. This is a time for us to reflect where our loyalties lie and whether it is freedom we are enjoying or well-masked oppression.

by Mariya Qadri
Team Operation Pakistan

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