We live in a country which is on its way to development. For a country, to be ranked in the developed nations of the world, it has to go through a lot. We are at the road of hardships to prosperity. It’s challenging but we are making through it, and it would be worth of while. Alongside numerous other things Freedom of Expression is one such element that matters a lot. It was Musharraf’s era that saw an abrupt change in the policies related to Freedom of speech and expression in Pakistan. The restrictions, which kept bound journalists and the general public alike, were called off. From then on a new era of liberated media surfaced. We have come a long way since then, emerging as a confident, liberated and somewhat mature media.
What exactly is Freedom of Expression?
In easy words, Freedom of Expression is the right to hold an opinion and speak out without any interference from government or any other like those of police or judiciary.
Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan or any part thereof friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence. – Article 19-19(A): Fundamental Rights and Principles of Policy; Part-II, Chapter 1: Fundamental Rights, The Constitution of Pakistan
These are the exact wording for the right of every Pakistani to free speech and expression scribbled in the constitution of Pakistan. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is free to have his/her viewpoint and can express it freely without any restriction except for the times when such expression would lead to any violence or crime, only then can the person be held accountable.
Time and again it’s been proved that Pakistanis are free to put forward their viewpoints and Pakistan is quite tolerant with regards to the acceptance of other’s opinions. Discussed below are some of the recent events that prove the said fact.
1. Hamza Ali Abbasi; a perfect example at the moment
Hamza Ali Abbasi, a brave heart, and an intellectual being, is never reluctant in putting forward his stance no matter what consequences he might have to endure. He is unstoppable, and he is almost always right. From social media spree to now much more controversial debate about Ahmadies oppression, he sure knows how to use his Freedom of Expression and Speech in the most accurate way possible.
2. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s take on Honor Killing and PM Nawaz Shareef’s assistance followed suit
A documentary, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy highlighted the grave issue of honor killing in Pakistan. Sadly, Honor Killings used to go unnoticed before this documentary but soon after this documentary won an Oscar, people started paying attention to the matter. The premier of Pakistan was quite supportive in this regard, and he began taking steps to eliminate the curse.
After this docu, incidences started surfacing, and in the recent course of events, a Fatwa has been issued declaring Honor Killing as “unIslamic and unpardonable sin.”
3. Taher Shah; the most optimistic man behind the strangest song “Mankind Angel”
While most of the people are struggling to be the someone they are not, Taher Shah, who in all his might doesn’t even bother what people might think of him. He comes up with the weirdest of the songs yet the confidence with which he puts forward his life’s viewpoint is worth the praise. His most recent song “Mankind Angel” which shook the world with its oddity, was strangely also welcomed wholeheartedly by the people for it gave some fun element to rejoice.
4. Public protest with regards to an Elderly Hindu man assaulted by Police for eating publicly in the Holy month of Ramadan
Gokal Das, 90, was reportedly mugged by Ali Hassan – a police constable, for merely eating rice outside his house in Ghotki, Sindh. This lead to the heated reaction by masses demanding for justice on social media. The demand was not only brought under consideration by the Government authorities, but the police constable was also arrested and put in jail. This Freedom of Expression sure did gain justice to a person belonging to the minority group.
5. Panama Leaks and the steps taken by the Government after public pressure
One of the biggest leaks in the history of the world, Panama Leaks came as a surprising revelation before the people who then started demanding serious investigations. Upon public pressure, Government directed State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to probe the matter.
6. The Heroic Raids of Ayesha Mumtaz
Ayesha Mumtaz, a well-known lady for her heroic steps of raiding hotels, cafes, bakeries and restaurants for checking the food quality and hygiene standards. She not only brought such places to the limelight but also sealed the ones that lacked in hygienic aspect and fine quality.
7. Qandeel Baloch … while no one can intimidate her Freedom of Expression
Though she can’t be regarded as an inspirational example, she sure has guts to speak her mind and heart out. Time and again she has proved that there is nothing in this world that could intimidate her. From the time when she would bet about Shahid Afridi’s win to the time when she publically proposed PTI leader Imran Khan, there can’t ever be any such thing that could stop her from blurting her opinion openly. There she sure is taking her “Freedom of Expression” real serious.
8. Udaari; Paving its way through hurdles given it the right to the Freedom of Expression
A drama which came under lots of controversies in past few weeks owing to its bold subject. PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority) issued a notice to the concerned and ordered a ban on it. In response to that not only did the director, producer, and channel head objected to the notice, but it lead to the social media outrage as well.
9. Freedom of Expression could be a step in bringing an end to Drone strikes
In the recent course of happenings, Afghan Taliban Chief Mullah Akthar Mansour, was killed by US drone strike, in Balochistan This unlike previous times was highly condemned and objected upon by the people and the government alike. While the brother of a man who was killed in the same strike with Mullah Mansour registered an FIR under “Murder and Terrorism” against US officials involved in this heinous attack. According to him, his brother Azam was innocent and was not “combatant” instead, he was just a driver to Mullah Mansour. He also mentioned that Azam was the sole bread earner of the family.
10. Some foreign countries who restrict their citizens from commenting openly on such forums
Countless cases of different countries can be enumerated here, where people were arrested for posting something that their respective governments took as offensive.
Trivedi, a Mumbai resident who is also a free speech campaigner, was detained by the police for displaying cartoons on his Facebook page that mocked Indian parliament and growing corruption in India. Similarly, another guy Devu Chodankar was arrested for posting a comment against Indian Prime Minister.
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