Another exclusive post from Ahmad Nadeem for PTH – comments are welcome (Raza Rumi)
“Is there a competition going on in Pakistan between institution to earn shame and notoriety for their nation?” my colleague asked me casually while we were having some drinks and watching a news television. “We are on that path for last 40years”, I answered stubbornly. Can there anything such shameful to force you behave that stubborn over your national pride? There is, hold your breath, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, the top body of media and custodian of ‘freedom of speech and civil liberties’, in a press release issued by its Secretary General, Mr Shamsul Islam Naz, has “officially’ appreciated the blocking of the Facebook Website.
This was followed by the Lahore High Court orders of a blanket ban on entire social media website depriving 2.5 million Pakistani’s an access to major internet services. Just because there was ‘one page’ out of millions, set by a silly American kid to make cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The same could have been blocked instead, but things work differently in Pakistan. A decision has to be popular rather than sane, the illiterate bearded men on streets with sticks and guns ought to be satisfied.
The ‘Superior Judiciary’ is custodian of freedom of speech, right of association and guarantees to protection of person, property and business of every citizen. It has the power to declare any act of executive as unconstitutional which is violative of the Articles 17, 18 and 19 of the constitution. These article provide the guarantee against any threat to freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of doing lawful business.
The court also is custodian of rights guaranteed in Article 24 of the Constitution in a strict commanding language squarely prohibits the depriving of any person of his property save, in accordance with law. It provides protection against any order passed against a citizen without providing him an opportunity to be heard. Since the order of blanket ban has been passed thousands of small scale enterprises using Facebook have gone out of business without having an opportunity to explain before court that a blanket ban is against the constitutional guarantees provided in above articles. Their only fault was that ‘someone else’ did some silly thing to hurt the sentiments of others and they got punished for that ‘silly kid’.
While PFUJ appreciates the punishments of 2.5 million for someone else fault, what will be its reaction if Hindu minority demands ban over ‘cow slaughter’, will they be treated in same manner as constitution guarantees ‘equal treatment before the law’. Certainly they, as subjects of state have a right to demand that their religious beliefs are not hurt. Can PFUJ condemn India when same happens over there in future? What happens when custodian of constitutional guarantees start acting according to popular demands ignoring the document which is basis of a nation state?
As individuals, we are prone to wrong decisions, as it is a human trait. There is nothing to be shameful, but then one must be ready to pay the price. Making a wrong decision does not justify sticking to the same. That is why nations build institutions, so that collective wisdom prevails and there is little or no chance of error or egoistic behavior.
The nations which have functional institution can still progress when they have government in wrong hands or even with a flawed system. A nation where institutions are absent or lose their direction, even being governed by Chairman Mao of China, Abraham Lincoln of USA or even by the great philosopher Carl Marx would not lead them to anywhere. The worst consequence is that entire nation pays the price of blunders of institution and only time can decide for how long such price is to be paid.
This is the case of Pakistan for last 40 years. Pakistan army led by General Zia ul Haq made the blunder of hanging ZA Bhutto and putting the nation on path of radicalization. In order to keep hold of power Zia destroyed every institution of state from where he felt threatened. Political institutions were maturing and divide was ideological in these times, even with difference of opinion the politicians were able to sit on one table. The 1973 constitution is proof of that maturity. He corrupted the political workers and destroyed the political parties by using brutal force and Arab perto-dollar and patronized sectarian and ethnic-ism.
Similarly he destroyed the institution of judiciary by inducting incompetent and corrupt judges from a particular religious sects and ethnicities. Resultantly, we got notorious Molvi Mushtaq Ahmad heading the judiciary where once legends like Justice Dorab Patel were seated. The institution of media which plays the role of eyes and ears of the society was the most vibrant and independent institution in Muslim world having people like Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Habib Jalib with unimpeachable integrity. It was filled by religious fanatics and corrupt cronies.
As a result of hypocritical use of Islam and radicalization for purpose of getting ‘cannon fodder’ for American cold war in Afghanistan, Zia destructed institutions which could support tolerance. We, as a nation are paying the price of his actions. The terrorism and extremism is not only costing in blood but also economy has gone to drain adding more poor, illiterate and jobless violent youth. Still we have not learned any lesson from mistakes of past and have miserably failed to re-build the broken institutions.
Just think of the PFUJ, the top body of journalists in 1970’s and its sacrifices for freedom of speech during censor of Zia’s dictatorship. Think of judiciary where people like Justice Dorab Patel were seated. And think of a society where every body participated in Shia processions and Sunni Millad’s without a fear of suicide attack. We are paying price of mistakes of past with blood, hunger, illiteracy and terrorism. The same army which made that blunder is paying for it, with their own blood while fighting the monster created by its greedy generals of past.
The mistakes of today are much more grave and fatal.
In a global village of this century the blunders of institutions being committed in a competition mode have far grave consequences. Ajmal Kasab or Faisal Shahzad does not represent Pakistan, our institutions does! World might forgive for the acts of these individuals but the damage caused by by institutions is irreparable and will cost heavily. Hats off, to Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists for acting on popular demands rather than rationality. You have done what Faisal Shahzad could not do – a suicide attack on freedom of speech and basic rights – of which your institution is a custodian.
Had the journalists body considered of those who lost their businesses without being heard, those who were denied the right of association and those who lost a medium of communication without any fault on their part – its decision would have been different. By appreciating the ban, the journalist body has not only validated the censorship but infringement of constitutional rights of citizens and the violation of grantee that no order shall be passed without providing citizens an opportunity to be heard. No wonder the headlines in international media these days carry the names of top Pakistani journalists for their links with terrorists and enticing killings.
Morn over the death of Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Dorab Patel and learn to live with the death of institutions and collective wisdom.