Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pakistan - A Laughing Stock

The mass witch hunt for suspected blasphemers on social media has begun, and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has already identified a “gang” of eleven suspects, one of which has already fled the country according to the investigative body.
It seems as if the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the National and Punjab assemblies, investigative bodies and political parties collectively do not have anything better to do, other than finding content that infuriates them, which can easily be avoided if the enraged members of the state just decide to not go out of their way in their search. At the same time, why is the government taking the IHC’s decision so seriously and is in a rush to implement it, when this proactive attitude was nowhere to be found in implementing the National Action Plan (NAP)?
The entire issue of the impossibility of monitoring social media seems lost on the government as well. But even if we ignore that, labelling the suspects as part of a ‘gang’ already presumes guilt where there might be none.
Not only that, but it also makes it sound like the suspected blasphemers have made inflammatory remarks on purpose, with the stakes in mind. As we have seen in the past, the issue of blasphemy and the accusations surrounding it are never this black and white. What one says may be construed as blasphemy even though the meaning behind was entirely different. Looking at public statements on social media and viewing them with this binary lens is not sensible.
Calling the presumed blasphemers a “gang” makes them sound much more sinister than they probably are. Surely there are better things we should be looking into, such as countering the terrorist threat, instead of starting a mass campaign which will only reflects our skewed priorities.
We have already been made an international laughing stock on more than one occasion for attempting to block the unblockable. This second attempt will only make the government look even more foolish. It is in the best interests of the country to allow freedom of speech and look to steer clear of anything that hurts our sentiments, instead of losing our tolerance at every perceived insult.

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