Internet Censorship: Why The Lifted Twitter Ban is Serious Matter


Exactly two years since the date on which a ban on Facebook was enforced in Pakistan, Twitter was blocked by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on orders of the I.T Ministry today.

The ban has just been lifted on orders of the PM.

The given ground for it was the ‘promotion and encouragement to participate in blasphemous contests’ through Twitter.

The first point of argument that arises upon hearing this, is: if such contests are being held by some, how will Pakistan’s suspension of Twitter stop it? How does barring people from any site, accomplish anything, leave alone the discontinuation of the alleged ‘offensive’ content?

It is patent that this is at a complete discord with rationale, thus rendering the whole act futile while assigning the element of sheer foolishness to it.

Second, what kind of ‘blasphemous contests’ were being publicised on Twitter, that those who are logged onto in 24/7 are not aware of, but only PTA was?

And that too, on a site like Twitter where any such controversial or globally or locally ‘trending’ topics immediately come into the cognizance and under the discussions of the millions of users?

In view of these, the reason given by PTA was seen more of a pretext rather than a valid explanation for their action.

Although the ban has been removed now, the situations surrounding the internet and its usage in Pakistan command that its core be taken seriously: internet censorship.

Since the advent of social networking sites, many in Pakistan have found a medium where the relatively great freedom of speech and expression available in the country, could be utilized to have their voice heard.

But the fact that the government and its organizations are vested with the authority to define a broad term like ‘objectionable’, misuse it to cease access to the internet under its cloak, is, to say the least, disconcerting.

Relevantly, taking into account that religion is the most dangerously sensitive pulse of the nation (and the most handiest of cudgels in Pakistani politics) and from 200 million only around 10% to 15% of Pakistanis are on the internet (while the rest are not conscious of what is really present or happening on it), using the guise of religion ( ‘blasphemous, objectionable content’) is the most ‘lucratively’ easy strategy for the puissant to advance their aims.

Especially in a country where there has been a tremendous transformation of the internet as a vent for public outrage, anger and criticism of the legislative, judicial and executive organs of the state, and as a forum for unprecendented critical scrutiny of the Military Establishment and the ISI.

Not to mention, how the internet has revolutionised the transmission of information, knowledge of global political, social or cultural happenings – at a phenomenal rate.

The abovementioned factor, is what usually troubles those ruling a state.

Generally speaking, the reach to all information of the populace is not in their (rulers, the potent) favor for it often ‘endangers’ the status quo or the position maintained by them.

And this leads to decisions that are, to go by the rhetoric, taken to ‘safeguard the public’ (and posed as forms of social control, when they really are government-foisted constraints to preserve the profitable ‘political equilibrium’) as the state jumps to keep up this drumbeat by parading notions of threat of disturbance to the social order.

(In Pakistan, that can be seen by how the alarm on the society’s morality was raised with the abundance of porn sites given as an example to justify banning many and ‘filtering the internet’; a sweep which included many Baloch sites that documented the gruesome, organized massacres in Balochistan and unambiguously naming the uniformed perpetrators while containing the grave disenchantment of the Baloch with Pakistan)

In the case of today’s Twitter ban, which was implemented with such a dubious founding, it all makes the aforementioned concern feel all the more real and reasonable.

Considering the popularity and usage of sites like Twitter and Facebook span continents and billions of people, they are correctly resembled to bridges that link the world; transcending physical borders and geographical separations.

Their incredible reach has established them as a connection between populations all around the world to interact, engage in healthy discussions, clear common misconceptions, express their point of view on a range of  topics and even promote commercial, educational, political and social goals.

And at a time when Pakistan is practically a pariah state, heavily stereotyped and misunderstood and such is the power of the internet in this age, that it has been successfully used as a tool for revolutions; it can not afford  and must resist internet censorship in any form, which not only removes it from availing the benefits that the platform offers, deprive its citizens from their right to freedom of speech, expression and information but also virtually, further isolates Pakistan from the rest of the world.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

* Later published on Express Tribune.

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Lifting Jinnah and His Life From Distortion: A Factual Rebuttal To PTI’s Story


NOTE: On account of all the presumptions and accusations being cast through comments which assume my leanings with a certain party, this is to clarify, that this post comes from someone purely non-partisan: neither a PPP, PML-N, JUI-F, MQM nor a PTI supporter. An independent observer of Pakistani politics.

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Lately, a message is being posted and circulated by supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, that attempts to strike some semblance between Imran Khan and M. A Jinnah.

While a strong liking may be taken to it by those politically aligned with PTI, but to those who are just reasonably au fait with history and Jinnah’s life, it is seen as an obnoxious distortion of and selective display of facts; which must be set straight.

In a sincere effort to put together a relatively, factually accurate rebuttal; this post relies heavily on excerpts from the magnum opus on Jinnah: Stanley Wolpert’s ‘Jinnah of Pakistan’.

And so it commences:

1. Contrary to what the altered versions of this viral post/status say, Jinnah never in his life, attended Cambridge University or any other university, leave alone having been enlisted in a ‘Hall of Fame’ of some educational institution in England. He only completed his legal education there. How someone could so callously come up with such a fallacy is beyond logic.

[1]

*Mamad was what Jinnah was lovingly called in his family.

[2]

Jinnah was later enrolled at Sindh Madressa-tul-Islam.

At a young age, his aunt Manabai took him with her to Bombay, (where uncertainty casts doubt on whether he attended Muslim Anjuman-I-Islam over there or Gokul Das Tej Primary School).  After which, he was brought back to his parents who registered him at the exclusive Karachi Christian Mission High on Lawrence Road.

[3]

In that period, the flourishing business of Jinnah Poonja (the Quaid’s father) had come to be associated with Douglas Graham and Company, whose General Manager Sir Freidrick Croft who ‘obviously liked Mamad and thinking highly of his potential to recommend the young man for an apprenticeship to his home office in London in 1892’.

[4]
After his travel to London, it was on April 25th 1893, that Jinnah ‘petitioned’ Lincoln’s Inn  and was granted permission to be excused the Latin portion of the Preliminary Examination, which he passed on May 25th .

Wolpert pertinently states:

‘Had he procrastinated he might not have been able to complete his legal apprenticeship, for the next year a number of prerequisites were added and the process of professional legal certification was substantially prolonged.’

While in England, Jinnah was influenced and fascinated by the fresh British liberalism and it was there, that he was presented with a glance in the fascinating world of politics. He often visited Hyde Park and the visitor’s gallery at Westminister’s House of Commons.

[5]
Courtesy: Doc Kazi on FlickrDue to a rather dramatic turn of events (paronomasia intended: Jinnah had developed a passion for theatre in London, and had sent a letter to his father to allow him to participate in it – only to be reprimanded and summoned back) Jinnah had to return back to British India after applying for a ‘certificate’ from Lincolns’ Inn:


|2|. Nothing more could be more further from the truth than the view that Jinnah ’suffered severely at the start of his legal career’ .

Upon his return, the realization of his mother’s death and his father’s sinking business, which had been subject to the whims and vagaries of time, dawned upon him dealing him a dark stroke but eventually, Jinnah did climb up the ladder professionally and out of this sombre chasm.

[6]

 

      

|3|. The ‘Flower of Bombay‘ that blossomed in  Jinnah‘s heart had converted to Islam becoming Maryam from Ruttie, three days before their marriage on Friday April 19th, 1918. [7]

And although Ruttie and Jinnah’s story was a Shakespearan tragedy, and their marriage eventually withered but they did not divorce.

Penned in an article on her at Dawn:

‘Her health continued to deteriorate; from 1926 through 1928 she was restricted mostly to bed.

Accompanied by her mother, Ruttie went to England in 1928 and later to Paris where she was admitted at a clinic in Champs Elysee. She was in a semi-comatose condition there …

Mohammad Ali Jinnah went to Paris and stood by her side, even eating the same food she was given. Ruttie’s health improved and she moved to Bombay where it took a turn for the worse again.’

An outstanding video comprising painstakingly compiled quotes and excerpts, weaves a silent narration of this entire so beautiful, yet so heartbreaking tragic love story.


    

|4|. As Jinnah and his wife had never divorced, the idea perpetuated by PTI’s page that Dina Jinnah’s custody was awarded to her mother by a judge, is naturally overturned.

Little is known of how and where Dina stayed during the years of her parent’s separation and after her mother’s demise.

But Wolpert mentions her at the time of Jinnah being at the peak of his political engagements at the age of 55, which means that the year must either be 1931 or 1932:

[8]

Jinnah also maintained formal correspondence with Dina, even after her marriage to Neville Wadia that he was in opposition to.

A reported picture of Dina and Neville after their marriage.

He addressed her as ‘Mrs. Wadia’ throughout it.
        

|5|. To roughly cram Jinnah’s first few years in politics as a ‘failure’ is not only harsh, but a travesty.

There is nothing that suggests his political penury during the years of 1900s, when he stepped into the domain.

And there is much that can be used in rebuttal of this, but for the sake of brevity, the following excerpts should suffice.

At the beginning of his political career, Jinnah simply remained a keen observer of  and judiciously analyzed the course of events in British India while closely following figures like Dadabhai Naoroji and Sir Pheroze Shah Mehta – on whom he was not unable to leave a favorable impression.

[ 9]

Jinnah had joined the Congress in 1906, and later the Muslim League in 1913.

The belief and notion of a single Indian nation regardless of religion, which recurred in Mehta and Naoroji’s speeches, reverberated strongly in Jinnah’s stance and thoughts; eventually earning him the respected title of ’Ambassador for Hindu-Muslim Unity’ in 1916, after his role in the formation of the historic Lucknow Pact – a common ground for cooperation between the Muslim League and Congress for accomplishing gains in the bid for self-government for British India. (Jinnah presided over the joint party session in Lucknow).

How all that comes down to evolving into failure, is rather a very difficult conundrum.

[10]



|7|.
Exactly to which era of pre-partition history that was intended to indicated towards through the point ‘Won only 1 seat after a decade of struggle’, is unclear but in retrospect the year of Jinnah’s ‘solemn’ involvement and foray into politics, which is largely-accepted to be 1906, should be considered.

After being bestowed with honorary titles such as the ‘Ambassador for Hindu-Muslim Unity’for the result of the culmination of his and others efforts to ensure union between the two parties, four years after 1906, in 1910, he was elected to the Imperial Legislative Council. (Bear in mind, Jinnah was only a member of the Congress at that point in time, neither a party leader nor part of the Muslim League.)

[11]

|8|. The adoption of the ‘Lahore Resolution’, was indeed a most momentous day in subcontinental, and Muslim League history, and in Jinnah’s political life. But how exactly can it be assessed that it was definitely what ’won people’s hearts and minds’ is quite complex and cumbersome to gauge.

So for the purpose of lucidity, it must be assumed that this phrase was meant to imply the complete guarantee and consummate ‘arrival on the political scene’ and success of Muslim League and its future proposals: Pakistan.

Even this is not in perfect accordance with reality, as after his return from London and the fragmentation of the All India Muslim League, Jinnah had diverted all his focus and energies to the strengthening and revamping of the party through critical and massive reorganizing – something which took a toll on his health too.

(‘Towards Lahore’ is an immensely informative chapter centering around this very ’restructuring’ of the AIML in the 1930s)

[12]

The watershed moment at Minto Park on 23rd March 1940, was only a result and culmination of the success of this pivotal political and social rearrangement of AIML.

|9|.There wasn’t really a plethora of or ‘weighty’ parties in Pre-Partition India, if there were any, there were only the Indian Congress and  All India Muslim League. Both, which at the end, owing to a twist in situations, stood completely different – on divided soil.

Bottomline is, nugatory and politically pointless parallels need to be stopped being drawn between the politicians of today and the leaders of yesterday.

Emotionalism, exagerration, lack of realism dipped in populism are what deplorably compose ’appeal’ in Pakistan. But still, at the end of the day, 200 million people do not want to know how similar a party leader is with the founder of the country but what a party has to offer them; socially, politically and economically.

Most importantly, please study history before indulging in an utterly distasteful presentation of ‘facts’. And do leave Jinnah out of it, his ideology and vision for Pakistan has been distorted enough to reach the brink that this state is on – kindly spare his life now.

To quote Stanley Wolpert again:

“Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.”

He was not infallible but there was only one Jinnah in Bombay, in sartorial incomparability, peerless finesse and debonair, political brilliance and realism and only one Jinnah of Pakistan. Let us not make him and his life a casualty in and party to political tactics.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

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References:

[1] Chapter I: Karachi, Page 5.

[2] Chapter I: Karachi, Page 5, 6 and 7.

[3] Chapter I: Karachi, Page 7.

[4] Chapter I: Karachi, Page 9 and 11.

[5] Chapter I: Karachi, Page 15.

[6] Chapter II: Bombay, Page 16 and 17.

[7] Chapter IV: Lucknow to Bombay, Page 53.

[8] Chapter X: London, Page 130.

[9] Chapter II: Bombay, Page 20.

[10] Chapter II: Bombay, Page 27.

[11] Chapter III: Calcutta, Page 32.

[12] Chapter XI: Towards Lahore, Page 155.

Most pictures courtesy Doc Kazi on Flickr.

* Any factual correction or edit needed in the post, would be highly appreciated if pointed out. Thank you.