Tightening the Authoritarian Noose Around the People’s Neck

Source: flare.pk

Pakistan is not a country we should feel proud of anymore. It has increasingly become an entity that is acting hostile to the people it is supposed to stand for. This is clear and evident by the recent curbs on political freedom and freedom of speech in the current year reminiscent of the years of the military dictatorship in the country. However, the comment of the current Chairman PTA, who happens to be a military officer (surprise, surprise) is unprecedented.

The PTA Chairman Maj. Gen. (R) Amir Azeem Bajwa, whose name sounds eerily related to the current Army Chief, said that social media in Pakistan should be blocked in the manner of China and the UAE. He recommended that Pakistan should develop its own social media channels to allow for state censorship and censor inappropriate content. Appointed in December 2018, under the able leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, General Bajwa mainly focused on “blasphemous content” to make his case of taking away the right of citizens to use social media to express their voices. If anyone had doubts about democracy being under threat in Pakistan, this statement should remove it.

The Chairman PTA was testifying to the Senate panel examining purported grievances where he remarked that “either the technical abilities of the organization be enhanced or the allow them to block social media websites to stop the circulation of blasphemous material.”  Even though nobody is ever going to explain what a retired general is doing serving this position and one which he is most likely not qualified for, his comments will largely go unaccounted for other than some fringe criticism on the social media of all the places. Nobody is going to mention it on the mainstream media and any criticism on the national news is improbable.

Surely, for the PTA chairman, blocking more than 850,000 porn and news websites are not enough. It is pretty clear that for these state authoritarians, it is not nearly enough. They want to go after the internet itself and if not the internet connectivity to maintain a facade of modernity, they will neuter it to an unusable state-regulated version.

With the launch of CPEC development projects and the rolling out of the optic fiber link from Khunjerab to Gwadar, one of the biggest fears is the Chinese internet spilling over into Pakistan. While thankfully the CPEC projects in Pakistan have appeared to slow down, it has nevertheless inspired the civil and military bureaucratic despots at the reins of administration in this country.

Unfortunately, the narratives these anti-democratic forces have nurtured for the past seventy years have duped well-meaning conservative citizens into believing that their civil rights and political freedoms are bad for them and for the country. Even in the name of blasphemy and national security, there is no shortage of urban nationalist conservatives in the country who would gladly sacrifice the internet as a public enemy.

The greatest tragedy of all is the fascist administration of PTI, a party that was pretty much built by and through the power of social media, other than a little help of our military establishment of late. More than the duplicitous and malicious leadership of the PTI, the people who would be the greatest losers are the urban educated voters of the party who look down upon the traditional and less privileged voters all across Pakistan. The government they voted in might be infringing on their rights but they have a choice to speak up. Pretty soon this little freedom we have will be gone.

Pakistan still has a lot to lose, which it continues to lose every day.

The Vision of Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999)

On the 1(∞)2th death anniversary of Stanley Kubrick, let us revisit the vision of the great director. While to a lot of people, Kubrick’s productions are boring and slow, some of them completely miss what those movies are about. Very few of films made by Kubrick received a favorable critical response right away anyway (only to be reconsidered later), yet he was one of the most independent of the filmmakers in the history of cinema who never compromised on his art ever since he directed Spartacus (1960), and he was way ahead of his time.

Like all great directors, such as Luis Buñuel and Ingmar Bergman, Kubrick had a central idea or theme in his mind which he used to convey through his movies. Probably the most important theme of the films made by Stanley Kubrick was humanity itself, and I think the philosophical side of his work is one of the reasons why he is considered such a great director, apart from its majestic cinematic value, and the idea was that humans were being destroyed by their own intelligence, or lack of enough intelligence.

These movies point out how the human failure to collaborate and cooperate with each other could potentially lead to the consequent premature demise of the species. Kubrick questioned our humanity and morality in Paths of Glory (1957), Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Barry Lyndon (1975)Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and most of all in A Clockwork Orange (1971). As a matter of fact, all his movies, with some of the others made earlier like Fear and Desire (1953) also explore this theme, and his films he never made like Steven Spielberg‘s A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Aryan Papers and Napoleon are the extensions of this theme.


HAL9000 Computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Kubrick produced some of the most memorable images in the history of cinema, but as much as they stuck to the memory of the viewer, they also appealed them to reflect on the deeper meaning behind those images. According to some film reviewers, Kubrick was a master of encoding symbols into his movies reflective of the theme, and the background contributed as much to the feel he created in a story as did the intense characters and their faces. Even that of HAL, which was probably the most important character of 2001: A Space Odyssey, a landmark in the history of cinema, or maybe the human history itself.

Some of the best moments from Stanley Kubrick’s movies that make you think.

SPOILER ALERT: Only for those who have already had the pleasure of watching his movies. For everyone else, watching these masterpieces is highly recommended. You can start by visiting his filmography.

The connoisseurs could use the following links.

Stanley Kubrick – The Living Memory

Kubrick Multimedia Film Guide

The Kubrick FAQ

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Dr.  Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Bomb (1964)