CPEC Marks the End of Free Speech in Pakistan

Source: par.com.pk

The latest provocative Dawn story about the CPEC might as well be a pack of lies but what about things unfolding right in front of our eyes. It is very hard, and almost feels immoral, to remain silent at the Interior Minister’s crusade against dissenting bloggers and social media activists. Since Zia’s period, we have not seen the Pakistani state practice such blunt and open crackdown against free speech and dissent in the countries. What are you to say of authorities who treat their own citizens, whose taxes pay for their livelihood, like the enemy?

It is deeply disappointing.

There is a reason why people are skeptical of China. The Chinese Road and Belt initiative does sound very good to the ears and who in their right mind would oppose economic cooperation beyond borders? But the reason why people find it hard to trust them is because of the political culture and ideology they practice in their country. They do not practice the freedom they have preached in this initiative. There are no Google and facebook in China and that is precisely why I am not too excited about the cross border optic fiber cable network from China border to Rawalpindi. The Chinese ideals are not shared by the Pakistani youth struggling for freedom of expression.

The Chinese cultural push in Pakistan also sounds more than just a rumor, with their political culture seems to be creeping into the country. You see, in Pakistan people like to dissent, even when it comes to the blasphemy law. They like to vote for other parties, speak ill of the people of other sects and ethnicities. And considering the totalitarian trends that are also creeping into Pakistani politics with unanimously passed constitutional amendments, it is important to remind that we are not a one party country and would never be no matter what happens. It is only sad to see that these values of the Pakistani people are not being shared by those cracking down on dissenters.

We can only beg our higher authorities to please think about the people of Pakistan above everything else and stop crackdown on dissenters.

Ever since the CPEC has started, the government has been responding very aggressively and reactively to any criticism, without trying to understand what the concerns might be. In good conscience, you cannot possibly support that, especially when the democratically elected officials stand behind such policies. China may genuinely have a very encouraging vision of the regional economy but the questions that the local Pakistani businessmen and cultural critics have are worth listening to.

The Pakistani dissenting bloggers may criticize or insult the Pakistani armed forces all they want, at least we knew that their higher echelons appreciated finer things in life. At least they valued some freedom for themselves, some of which trickled down to us mortals. But with an authoritarian influencer in the picture, are we even going to have the little freedom that we used to enjoy? The future looks uncertain and scary.

Also, please do not mistake these lines to be a contradiction to the title of this piece. The more frightening aspect is that now the Pakistani authorities do not even fear if their reputation gets affected by openly targeting dissent. And that is precisely the effect of the CPEC.

Consider this and all the pieces to come from hereon to be heavily self-censored.

Long live Pakistan.

 

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Another Moment of Our Insignificance

Source: dawn.com

Source: dawn.com

It was that moment again. The moment that you would anxiously dread for your entire life. Just like dreading war in peace time. Just like anticipating an intruder without a gun.

It feels like staring at death. In sheer terror, you scramble to save your life, leaving behind all this dear to you, except your life. Something which you are condemned to carry with you.

Looking at everything you built, waiting for it to crumble down.

Thankfully, many of us escaped the ruthless blow of Nature, but many among us did not.

On October 26, that fateful day, the earth shook again, and almost swept everything away. And only those who live through the disaster, those who survive it, could tell you what it felt like.

And for those who could not make it, let’s keep them in our thoughts forever. For it so easily could have been us and our loved ones, as they are.

The Afghanistan quake was 7.5 strong on the scale. Some were calling it the worst earthquake in the history of Pakistan, but I knew they were wrong. It was nowhere near as devastating as the 2005 Kashmir quake, that I ironically wrote about just weeks ago. But it was pretty devastating nevertheless, especially for the people of KP, Northern Areas and Afghanistan.

And believe me, we can never understand the pain of those who lost their loved ones and homes.

But that’s not all what this week brought. It also .

In Rawalpindi and Islamabad, it had already been overcast and rainy for the past two days. And on the eastern dawnsky, Mars, Jupiter and Venus were converging in a magical astronomical display, only to be repeated after decades.

I missed it. Two days after the quake, I managed to find clear skies on the morning of the 28th. With what I had, I managed to take these.

20151028_051637ee

Maybe, some of you could spot Mars if you look hard enough. If you have the time for it, that is.

20151028_051726ee

Looking up at the sky at that moment was a different feeling altogether.

A feeling of significant insignificance.

RIP Ardeshir Cowasjee

Ardeshir Cowasjee (1926-2012) – Source: Herald

One of the most illustrious, colorful, vibrant and daring freethinkers in the Pakistani history, Ardeshir Cowasjee has passed away. He was 86. He was a columnist, primarily for Dawn , a businessman and a philanthropist.

I can’t say I know a lot about him but he has always been a huge inspiration for as long as I have known about him. And I am sure I am not the only one. Everyone likes someone with great clarity of mind and zero tolerance for nonsense.

It was his outspokenness towards nonsense in a nonsensical country that earned him his reputation and made him an inspiration for so many others who want someone to take a stand.

I believe that despite the fact that he had extraordinary charisma, what further enhanced his status was that he lived in Pakistan. I think most people would easily say that he was probably out of place for the country, a misfit, but then again, it really was Karachi.

Of course I never met him and have no experiences to share but I find it fascinating to read how he touched other people’s lives. Nabiha Mehr Sheikh wrote a particularly impressive eulogy that actually celebrated him more than it really mourned his death, something inevitable for almost anyone, let alone a man of his age.

But what really is a concern is that probably there is no one around to fill his shoes. Simply no one who could carry forward his legacy.

That sounds a bit like an overstatement considering that he had remained inactive in the recent years, but then again being inactive is not the same as being dead.

Still I take acknowledging a man of his stature a religious duty and can only hope that his impact lasts for as long he is remembered.

I hope we never forget him.