Sign'O'#FBPkBan Courtesy of @Sabeen Mahmud
I’ve avoided comment on Pakistan in recent years, not just because life as a Canadian, entrenched in municipal politics has changed my focus, but also because the last few years have left me pretty speechless in terms of the on-goings in the motherland. Before I could formulate a coherent thought on any event, we’d already be struck by a newer, previously unimaginable disaster. All one could do was circulate links from news agencies, ignore doomsday conspiracies alluding to the demise of the country, sign petitions against drone attacks, and mostly hold hands, pray, and devise ways of convincing die-hard patriotic relatives to move abroad, even if it was for just a little while.
But as has always been the case with the motherland, amidst all the mayhem, the absurd suddenly struck!
As if over million strong internally displaced persons, thanks to the crisis in Swat, South Waziristan, and generally disastrous economic wasteland weren’t already stretching Pakistan’s bare-to-the-bone resources, we have a new ecological crisis looming that threatens to displace thousands. Pakistan, as I write this, awaits for Ataabad Lake in Hunza to burst following a massive landslide. However, if you google news of Pakistan, this doesn’t even make the Top 5.
We seem to be more interested in setting known criminals free, still debating who maybe in control of the Taliban, silly cricket shenanigans, and aah yes….the storm in a teacup, the ban of social media in Pakistan. In a crazy twist of irony, the one thing that’s taken the people to the streets, burning tires and chanting, is the laughable EDMD event which used Facebook as its launch-pad, after the big and equally unnecessary brouhaha over the South Park episode which would have featured the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), when Comedy Central set precedence with that first unnecessary act of self-censorship, which later snowballed.
So the Land of the Pure is a week into the Judiciary’s self-imposed ban on social media, thanks to the perceived threat to Islam (is the faith really that weak?), with no foreseeable end in sight, although May 31st seems to be D-Day. The ban has generated enough attention from Zuckerberg & Co, but so far the Republic of Bananistan has not moved from its very lonesome, and (fairly idiotic) stance, even for the traditionally absurdist Ummah.
We’ve burnt tires, demanded Facebook be banned (I thought it already was?), screamed bloody murder, and done everything but talk about the 800 pound gorilla in the room….you know: economic downturn, Zardari-Machiavellianism, poverty, suicide bombings, lack of infrastructure, political instability, illiteracy, burgeoning population, etc, etc, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, we can’t just sweep EDMD & offending Muslims under the First Amendment carpet. I personally do not live the life of incorporating hate in my vernacular on the basis of “Freedom of Speech” protocol. But I am fairly wary of governments interfering via blanket media bans. When did ignorance = bliss? Its like we are back to the days of Jahiliyyah, and need a new Sir Syed to break us out of our own tyrannical grip on our grey matter.
For now we watch & wait, and many of us who grew up experiencing the best of Pakistan, we lament the loss of our land and liberties to the whims of its “Azaad Adiliyah” & Zardari-Bemari. What’s interesting is that the blogosphere and few social networking sites such as Twitter that have been spared the ban, have been abuzz with dialogue about censorship, human rights, the state of Pakistan, politics and economics. Not enough to trend it as a topic in tweets, but enough to give me hope there are not only some very intelligent people in Pakistan, but they care, and they have the energy to make a difference. Personally, I’d been massively plugging SAYA Trust, my family’s charitable foundation working to educate and rehabilitate internally displaced children living in the slums of Islamabad, on Twitter to bring awareness to the fact that many grassroots organizations like ours depend almost entirely on viral fundraising and word of mouth, and that its not just a personal liberties issue.
Express Tribune which partners with the International Herald Tribune even “followed” the story, and did a piece in which yours truly’s (DeuceExMachina) tweet was also quoted: http://tribune.com.pk/story/14678/wikipedia-facebook-youtube-what-next/.
I am hoping that sense prevails, and this ban is lifted by the 31st, as initially indicated by the Lahore High Court. Although I’ve learnt to always expect the unexpected when it comes to Bananistan, and its dairh-inch-ki-masjidism!
Till then, please lets pray for the people of Hunza, for I doubt much relief effort is underway in real terms
For more information on the #FBPkBan, please refer here.