Don’t You Dare Dissent

Source: The Daily Times

What is going on? The generation on the eastern bank of the Indus who was born after Zia’s period has never seen anything like this in their entire lifetime. And ironically, this is the generation that is standing up the most in dissent. Are they insane?

Their world view has been shaped by the ideals of Western democracy and is inspired by the recently concentrated focus on social justice. How can the activism triggered by these values be reconciled by the fact that they have been brought up in a faux democracy that has a violently grim history?

Well, nothing has changed as far as the Pakistani state is concerned. Except for they are not afraid anymore. Or so it seems to us, clueless commentators.

The revolution of dissent inspired by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement has even taken overnight arrests to the heart of Punjab. Of course, it has happened before the last time the PTM decided to hold a rally in the provincial capital of Punjab following the killing of activist Arman Luni. This time around, Dr. Ammar Ali Jan, a Cambridge educated progressive professor of Punjab University from Lahore, was apprehended at the strike of dawn from his residence.

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Ammar Ali Jan was later released and he articulated his ordeal in a column demanding for a new social contract.

Dr. Ammar Ali Jan was not the only facing the wrath of the authorities. This time the arrest was supposed to make more legal sense when Rizwan Razi was picked up from his home, in classic detention style by the FIA wing under the Cyber Crime Law passed under the last PML-N administration. While I and many prominent bloggers and journalists had a feeling what this, for which the previous administration, as well as the PPP controlled Senate needs to take full responsibility (although, of course, the terms were dictated from the bureaucratic state) but it’s sad how the assault on free speech has been meticulously legislated in Pakistan.

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So what’s next is the question. Banning twitter and facebook in Pakistan? We know these websites have been temporarily suspended from user access in Pakistan before. We also know that our state institutions have an army of trolls to defend the ideology of the state as well. But something on the lines may be days away because of the latest threat by the Ministry of Information, warning of strict action.

Unfortunately, we have a similar history of repression of political free speech throughout the history of Pakistan. Only recently the memo case against the former ambassador in exile, Hussain Haqqani, was dropped from the courts. That case was simply going nowhere and the court ended the hearings because the petitioners themselves were not interested to show up.

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The court simply concluded that the government should proceed against the Ambassador if it wishes to do so. Haqqani is known for his sharp anti-establishment political views about Pakistan and currently heads the Hudson Institute in Washington DC. Despite the hostilities at home, he remains committed to a free and democratic Pakistani society.

But that is not possible without civilian supremacy and a transparently functioning democracy in Pakistan. I know that the buzz is all about the India-Pakistan border conflict but these things also marked a very dark February in 2019.

How to Respond to Warmongering Mass Hysteria

Source: Republic TV

I believe strong opinions, especially when they are political in nature, come from strong convictions of unfairness and wrongdoing. This is why often the loudest political rhetoric is the most passionate and emotional, appealing to the reflexes as opposed to cold consideration. This must be respected because it comes out as a reaction to hurt but still that is not an excuse for creating further chaos and violence.

Unfortunately, the air of shock and grief caused by the tragic Pulawama attack culminated in a sense of mass hysteria across India. Of course, many sane individuals from both sides refrained from rallying for battles on the border. The war hysteria in this case was understandable from India’s side. The problem is that with Pakistan’s undisputed history of supporting Islamist militants since 1948, Pakistanis cannot really begin to claim moral high ground over India. So not too impressed with Pakistani restraint or too disappointed by the Indian hysteria. But it is important to emphasize that this hysteria is indeed dangerous.

It is important to focus on facts for individuals. We are never going to know what is happening on the borders, especially on the line of control, and we can only rely on undisputed reported facts instead of the state machinery. The best idea you can do is to rely on international news sources on battle reports and receive them without cheering too much because sooner or later, your warmongering is going to backfire.

We are not going to avoid India-Pakistan confrontations because their existence is by design. India and Pakistan are so obsessed with each other because they have been set up this way. We just need to learn to live with it with mutual respect.

This is precisely what you don’t do.

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So Pakistan like always allegedly carried out a terrorist/militant strike and India allegedly hit back at the militants. Pakistan with its long history of sponsoring militants to create trouble in Jammu and Kashmir has already caused pretty much all the wars between the countries. So if you happen to be on the Pakistani side of the fence.

We must avoid nationalistic jingoism such as the Indians celebrating the Indian retaliatory bombing in Juba, Balakot, and the Pakistani response of shooting down the Indian jets. Likewise, the media must also refrain from rallying people for battle and using ridiculous hashtags while reporting news.

We must remember that we don’t really know what is going on in the borders. So before we start letting too much of this get to our heads, we must sit back. Take a deep breath.

We are not going anywhere anytime soon.