NationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 01

Stifling Sane Voices

Education, rationalism, research, bold and innovative ideas, scientific inventions, healthy discussions, positive criticism, tolerance, respect for others, a reward for hard work, healthy activities, productive entertainment and fear of accountability are the driving forces that make a country and nation strong and powerful. History of the world tells us that all these driving factors and forces can be created and achieved with freedom of expression, a unified education system, free media and communication.

The Constitution of Pakistan ensures the protection of fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, free speech, equal justice, health facilities and education, etc. to all citizens. But, unfortunately, Pakistan’s history clearly shows that rationalism and sane voices have always been discouraged and stifled in the country. Right from the very beginning, some unseen forces have created confusion about the ideology of Pakistan. These forces even edited the speech of the Quaid, which he delivered on August 11, 1947. By doing this, these forces, in fact, have imposed their own agenda and created many fault lines in the country even before its independence.

Farrukh Khan Pitafi, a famous columnist, writes: “If you are a Pakistani fascinated by the country’s history there is a good chance you have been brought up on a controlled diet. There is one narrative that is set by the state. Pakistan’s first fault line is called ideology. You would think that a country with a Muslim population of over 96% would have no trouble on that front but then you would be wrong. Consider this: On August 11, 1947, only days before the birth of the country, its founder delivered an illuminating speech on the country’s future promising religious freedom to all citizens amid other things. The speech was heavily censored before release and the audio record of it is still not found. Ask yourself why? Because somebody in the government thought that the speech by the country’s founding father contradicted the ideology of Pakistan. Let it sink in. The words of the only man who won you freedom through a democratic and legal struggle were not palatable for somebody who was already interpreting the ideology for you. Could it be the permanent ruling class of the country which Hamza Alvi once dubbed the “salariat” and we now call the bureaucracy?”

After the creation of Pakistan, these forces have tried their best to keep the people ignorant, irrational, poor, religiously emotional and intolerant by using the slogans of Islam and national interests. Many writers, poets and journalists, like Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Habib Jalib etc, were sent to jail for raising their voice against political tyranny, martial law, injustice, corruption, exploitation, poverty, ignorance and extremism. Maulana Zafar Ali Khan’s Zameendar newspaper was closed. Josh Malihabadi, who came to Pakistan in 1955 and started criticising the government of Ayub Khan, faced countless ordeals. His property was confiscated by the regime. The right-wingers labelled him a “kafir.”

According to Sibtain Naqvi, Hafeez Jalandhari, who wrote Pakistan’s national anthem, was the chief of the pro-government group. During World War II, as the head of the Bureau of Public Information and Song Publicity Organisation at All India Radio, Hafeez Jalandhari played an important role in British propaganda. According to several accounts, he wrote poems to recruit Indian cannon fodder that would eventually die in North Africa and East Asia for their colonial masters.

After becoming an adviser to General Ayub Khan, Hafeez Jalandhari accelerated his criticism of Josh. Even, on the death of Josh, Hafeez said: “Josh should have died before his death. The fate of the enemy of Islam, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and Pakistan is now in the hands of Allah.” This underhanded blow was condemned by the poet community. Faiz dismissed it, saying, “It crossed all limits!”

Every effort has been made to silence moderate and revolutionary voices. A group of pro-government writers, poets and journalists was promoted. Sectarianism, provincialism, linguistic differences, feudalism, political and social prejudices were deliberately created and promoted. Even Fatima Jinnah was declared a Ghaddaar (traitor) by Ayub Khan and his political supporters. The pro-government group and political and religious leaders are still declaring many moderate writers, persons and journalists anti-Pakistan and kafir just to protect their interests and rule. Resultantly, extremism, ignorance, intolerance, corruption and crime are increasing rapidly in the country. A real democratic system is not flourishing. All institutions of the state are getting weaker and weaker.

Recently, a senior journalist, a vociferous critic of the PTI government, was kidnapped in broad daylight in Islamabad. After his abduction, the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court said: “No one is above the law and every citizen, including the state, is subservient to the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution”. Mentioning the federal government and public office holders, the court said: “They have to demonstrably show that there is a political will to put an end to impunity for crimes against citizens and to protect journalists from harm for exercising the right to free speech.” After his release, the journalist recorded his statement to the police on the order of the Apex Court. It is the duty of the police to arrest the accused and unearth the motives of the abductors. Every citizen has a constitutional right to express their views about the government and other public office holders. No institution or department should be allowed to resort to torture and kidnapping for silencing a critic. It is a crime which should be punished.