CyberCrime Bill: What Blasphemy Law Feels Like

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I just came across an apparently credible copy of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes bill that is reportedly passed by the standing committee on information technology, but had learned just enough from the outraging social media posts criticizing it that the Pakistani government is at its worst again. Searches without warrant and internet censorship.

From the looks of it, the bill seems to be a grim reminder why government should be out of our lives in as many aspects as possible. It is also a reminder of the terrible extent of power our democratic structure vests into the hand of the government agencies such as the PTA and how nobody sees that as a problem.

The trouble with liberals aspiring for greater government control in Pakistan is that they conveniently forget that the country is an Islamic Republic. This means that ideologically, Pakistan is just a few shots away from becoming societies such as Iran. This is why I have always been skeptical about policing the internet for hate speech. But still, laws must protect people from hacking, harassment and financial fraud. However, such laws, just like any laws, should remain confined to dispute resolution as opposed to mandatory guidelines for moral behavior.

However, what is encouraging is the public outrage at the bill in the Muslim majority country, at least online. Finally, my dream of seeing the likes of the Jamaat-e-Islami protesting on the streets to prevent a facebook ban could be near its realization perhaps. What is the world coming to?

Among the youth, it is really refreshing to see the passionate opposition, despite the fact that the bill apparently contains many things that the activist folks have been campaigning for years. Of course, that does not include protecting the head of the government, who happens to be a “natural person,” or the state from criticism, or allegedly defamation, but you could expect such provisions to creep into the penal code. Though that is a biased, out-of-the-way interpretation really of the most ambiguous, but pretty authoritatively liberal bill you have seen in a while. But in all honesty, I do not expect the current state regime to formulate any law without providing for the protection of the glory of Islam and the sanctity and security of the state.

This offers some remote idea to the liberal and conservative Muslim majority in the country of what the blasphemy law remotely feels like. The more informed of critics would obviously laugh away this comparison, as they should, but anyone can agree that you don’t see Pakistanis getting outraged at free speech curbs everyday. I would also like to apologize to the drafters of the bill for comparing it with something as terrible as the blasphemy law, but let me proceed with my argument anyway.

The insecurity that you just felt by learning about the Prevention of Electronic Crimes bill 2015 is what most citizens not belonging to a certain religion in Pakistan do every day because of the blasphemy law. I really hope that this occasion is used to extract some empathy for the people whose lives are jeopardized by the blasphemy law.

As for the cybercrime bill, it is important to stay vigilant before the state ends up killing the internet in the name of preserving its sanctity. We must openly and unapologetically oppose the blocking of websites on any ground, let alone religious, political or pornographic. We must oppose the notion of the state deciding moral right and wrong for us. Unless that is the case, we are always prone to lose our freedoms forever. I know it is way too early to freak out about this bill, but we could be headed down a dark alley where columns such as this one would never be seen again on a Pakistani website in the future.

We have had enough activism in this country calling for government intervention. It is time to call for the government to keep its hands off the internet. It is time that we start questioning if offending the glory of state and religion is a criminal offense at all. Thankfully, the Pakistani youth, at least the online bit, is reading the writing on the wall. Since there is not much you can do about the Islamic nature of the constitution of the country, at least you can try keeping government out of things like speech on internet as much as you can.

I still have good faith that our government and parliament will not pass this bill into a law, or at least not unanimously, but you never can tell in a country crazy enough to still have YouTube banned for apparently no sensible reason at all.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

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Banning the Anti-State Cable Network

Source: The News

Source: The News

Politics of the Jang group is such a mixed bag.

At times, the news group is said to be in the pocket of the ruling Sharif brothers and at others, it is considered to have operatives in a hostile India.  Sometimes, it is serving as the bullhorn of the Chief Justice and sometimes it seems to be the voice of Islamist bigots.

At times, its channel is said to be the mouthpiece of the establishment. At others, it is apparently perceived to be accusing the ISI of all the ills in the world, especially shooting its senior anchor Hamid Mir, and asking its head to step down.

But everyone can agree that the channel Geo News is sensationalist at best.

We have a problem in Pakistan, which by the way, exists all over the world too. A problem that needs to go. We are ever prepared to penalize people for saying things.

Therefore, the currently ongoing silent censorship of the news channels of the Geo Network, which may or may not materialize into license cancellation. The backlash came after the ISPR decided to file a libel lawsuit for false accusations over Mir case, followed by the Defense Ministry forwarding an application to the PEMRA for its ban. (Really Khawaja Asif? Oh I get it.)

OK, so why is everyone quiet over it?

Because clearly they have crossed the line. Nobody likes it, neither do I even though I didn’t catch what is said to be the worst of it, and it is hideous. Typical Geo TV. And yes, an example must be set to teach the channels to report responsibly.

But how? And who would do it?

And why do bans need to be enforced for the same purpose?

The government can’t shut a channel up just because it had an unfavorable broadcast for a few hours. Then there is no free media if that is the case, and certainly no free speech.

Libel lawsuits are all good, so are penalties on violating code of conduct. But does this kind of reaction mean that anyone criticizing certain public institutions will be met with such a reaction from the government? What are we aspiring to become? Soviet Union or Nazi Germany?

In any case, the government must not penalize speech and any such law should be deemed unconstitutional. Surely, not the case in Pakistan.

I believe the right way to penalize an irresponsible channel is to impose a monetary fine instead of banning it altogether. Even though I would never support even a monetary fine for speech.

We need to stop shutting people up to feel secure. Not sure if that kind of security ever worked.

Or perhaps just let people change the channel.

Nargis Turns Pious & Why I Support “Vulgarity”

Source: Express Tribune

Behold! O creatures of the pure, we taketh the source of thy pleasure, but to offer a lot of thanksgiving, for the Lord doth so after its bounty you have collected. Still will you not be grateful? (Land of the Pure 12:10)

So Punjabi stage dancer and actress Nargis, whose performances are considered by a good number of moralist, civilized and self-righteous Pakistanis as “vulgar”,  (not that their beliefs are any lesser)  has bid farewell to “show” business and has turned pious. She has informed the press at her residence in Lahore after reportedly returning from abroad that she is planning to become an Islamic religious scholar and has shrugged off allegations of conspiring to murder a local PML-N thug, who was allegedly harassing her. Whether her conversion was the result of the increasing Islamophobia she must have endured in the West or her repentance for the past sins, she did not clearly state.

So we are only left with Veena Malik (mainly) now it seems.

By the way, if you don’t know who Nargis is, here is a glimpse of one of her performances.

So before I mock and then justify Nargis’ born-again-piety without invitation, let me put in my own cents of morality to make you feel bad before you actually leave and close this page out of disgust. First of all, let me assure you that while I don’t really share the vulgar Punjabi wildness and the barbaric and hypocritical lust of the audiences of the Punjabi striptease or otherwise mujra, I support it wholeheartedly and would watch it unconditionally if and when provided the opportunity. I don’t mind if you consider me a vulgar, disgusting, sexist, Satanic and uncivilized male beast, but here are a few objective reasons for it.

I simply do not see what is so wrong with it. I acknowledge that while it is female objectification of the highest order, (but then again, what isn’t? (especially burka)) I also acknowledge that the actors and dancers and producers work very hard to come up with these, well let’s face it, musicals. Furthermore, I acknowledge that these important members of the society, by which I am referring to the entertainers, take home a very good chunk of pubic wealth home which they otherwise would not even have hoped to pocket in their wildest dreams other than resorting to taking the law in their very own hands. This is a great relief for many a poor kanjars in our highly pious society. May I remind Her Holiness that she owes a lot of her current assets and quality of life to this “shameful” and cringeworthy industry.

Furthermore, I believe that the mujra should remain active for as long as people want to watch it, and here I am talking about stage performances and not private mujras, the latter of which you cannot possibly ban thanks to the secret morals of our mai-baaps, or elders and superiors if you will. You know, the eugenically superior of our society, which is sadly too conscious of its deprivations and have-nots. Once found redundant in terms of market demand, the mujra would die its own death-of-a-dog in a free market economy.

Nargis in action (Source: postpk.com)

A lot of people would find this an occasion to attack Nargis for her “sins”, but I would strongly support her even still. For what choices does she have to survive in this horrifyingly religious and self-righteous society with selectively erotophobic morality but to wear the charade of piety, also known as the hijaab? What choices does she have but to assume a social role which everyone despises in private but cannot possibly condemn in public from a social role that everyone has a soft corner for in private but cannot help but insult and condemn in public? Don’t be upset at why people act this way. They are brought up to. But she, well, needs to live, breathe, procreate too.

I could tell from one of her TV interviews which I won’t be able to find that she had been feeling those pressures. But first let us talk about the morality and “vulgarity” of the Punjabi stage theater and our highly moralist commentators and administrators who are always too keen to shove their phalli down the already-congested throats of the masses. The mujra can be rejected to be of bad taste, I agree, especially since the frequent lustful references in it are bound to go down as inappropriate in a society which has based almost all its beliefs on the guilt it associates with sex. If you ever come to know how hypocritical the jeering Punjabi male youth are in this regard, you would feel even sicker.

But is there any justification to ban it? Is it synonymous with prostitution? How insulting. Apart from the racially charged political and moralist slurs from the supposedly-liberal self-exiled phoning-from-London hysteric, there has been many attempts, especially by that of the administration of our patriotic overlord, the Khadim-e-Aala of the Punjab, to ban it,  because it has been spreading “vulgarity” in an already vulgar society by any objective or subjective standards. Because anything that the majority of the population of this country does not agree with must be banned. We are a nation of banners anyway. You know, banners like off with the heads of blasphemers.

Art, and yes I will insist upon calling it an art form, is only a subtle reflection, and yes it is a very subtle one, of what the society around it is. I find a number of trends in our society far more vulgar and far more immoral than the mujra or even the much maligned Punjabi film industry for that matter. Take the religion for example, for I don’t know from where should I start. The burka, the segregation of the sexes, the forced marriages, forced child marriages, life of celibacy enforced on women via marriage with the Koran, domestic violence, acid throwing, gang rape, public humiliation, torture, murder and not sure what else that is protected by the state in one way or another. But no, no, the mujra must be the source of all the evils in the society. Dancing and stripping women, Allah tauba.

It is the age-old hypocritical trait of this culture to despise the ones who entertain them as inferior castes and kanjars, a Punjabi derogatory epithet with sexual and moralist connotations, and this trend has even been loosely prevalent in the subcontinental history, thanks to the caste system of our highly bigoted racist ancestors. Though what gives me immense pleasure is that those who claim to be from the lineage of the Prophet, or the Syeds, have been joining their ranks in the recent times. But surely they must be liars.

I am sick up to my nostrils (with gooey filth, almost exploding) with the hideous, disgusting, nauseating and hypocritical Islamic-Punjabi and Islamic-rest-of-the-civilized-Pakistan morality that I and millions others are forced to inhale every second. Though I do believe that these are characteristics which are roughly displayed by our incurably pathetic species in one form or another around the world. At times like these, I often take the pleasure of reminding this great evolutionary mistake of a species that they are nothing more than animals and nothing more they will ever be, no matter how hard they try.

While I mourn the loss of Nargis from the stage to the obscurantist and chaddor-wrapping clutches of Moralist Islam, I am proud to support what you call vulgarity and very proud to be an immoral, vulgar man.

And I am not sorry.