Freedom of Expression in Pakistan
When an individual thinks about the capabilities of the human mind, they are likely to be astounded by the seemingly infinite possibilities. In the words of James D. Watson, “The brain boggles the mind.” The mere fact that the brain can conceive such differing thoughts is what drives the world forward. The vast diversity of human thought is the very thing that creates innovation and progress for the civilization of man. A house divided in direction cannot stand, but a house divided in ideas will move into the future. It would be an utmost shame for any society to make efforts towards chaining this biological marvel. The mind is that which cannot be imprisoned, suppressed, or silenced. However, in many nations, freedom of expression is either nonexistent, or is being threatened.
As rational-thinking human beings, it is crucial to value the ideas and opinions of the people around us. Our minds are what bring richness to life. Thoughts and feelings are what set humans apart, and to suppress them would be to take away our own voice, and allow all our thoughts to wash away in a sea of unison. The world would be entirely in the hands of one thinking body, and it has been seen countless times in history how harmful it can be when one mind controls every aspect of life. For humans to exist individually, they cannot be categorized into groups of thinking. For if this were to happen, the world would be stripped of countless revolutionary ideas that would be trapped in silenced minds.
In many nations like France, North Korea, and Syria, freedom of expression is threatened by censorships and bans. In the nation of Pakistan, freedom of expression is promised by the national constitution, but this is not a legislature-related issue; increasing attacks against “blasphemous” thinkers as well as religious minorities jeopardizes it. The cause of these attacks is in part credited to the presence of terror groups, as well as basic intolerance. For example, on April 24th, Pakistani human rights activist Sabeen Mahmud was shot point-blank in the seat of her car. Mahmud was known for hosting meetings in the coffee shop she owned where those interested could come and discuss new ideas. She was a freethinker, and invited others to come and share their thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics. Regardless of whether or not individuals agreed to what Mahmud personally believed, the idea is that all ideas are to be respected, and her freedom of expression was to be protected. Additionally, there are many journalists and media outlets that are hesitant to publish anything that could be seen as wayward or other in fear of being threatened and attacked. However, if the world is to have a glimpse at a progressive future, individuals must fear a stagnant society greater than they fear punishment and confrontation.
Attacks and violence against those of minority faiths are also on the rise all across Pakistan. Many human rights groups have called upon the Pakistani government for strengthened security for these people. Following a Peshawar church bombing, Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, in a 32-page decision, called for the formation of the National Council for Minority Rights. Additionally, he asked for a special task force specially designated to protect places of worship for minority groups. Many have claimed this is a historical moment for freedom of expression and religion in Pakistan, and there is no doubt this is an enormous step towards a more accepting and tolerant world.
We are not required to agree or even like the conflicting ideas of those around us, but we must be respectful of them all the same. Coexistence is possible if people accept that perhaps the differences human beings have are some of our most valuable assets. We shall continue to exercise the beauty of thought, but recognize that for one individual to be allowed the fundamental right of voice, it must be allowed for all. May the words I am writing, and you are reading, serve as a call for tolerance for all people in not only Pakistan, but in all parts of the world. If we are to see a future where intellectual diversity is preserved and valued, we must come together to make the change now.
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