Facebook censorship of Sindhi and Baloch voices must be Stopped

Pakistan is an Islamic Theocratic State where political objectives are achieved by using the religion as a tool. Either the state has to extend its influence in the region or to curb the political opposition at home, Pakistan always uses the religion with its bifunctional approach in getting its political and strategic tasks done.

The decades of state-backed radicalization of the societies within the sociopolitical framework of Pakistan has left the general population to be touchy about the subject matters of religion and thus it’s easier for Pakistani establishment and government to manipulate the crop they have sown since the generations.

When it comes to its foreign affairs in the region, the Pakistani military establishment uses its “Good Taliban” to exert pressure on neighboring countries however in its internal issues it showcases a great deal about pretending to control and counter the religious extremism.

Often to veil the ongoing military and paramilitary operations in Sindh and Baluchistan against secular political movements the Pakistani state paints a very negative and unrealistic image of secular political opposition by mixing it with religious extremist terrorists.

The fact is apparent in the reports of Asian Human Rights Commission which has clearly mentioned that Pakistani state has been banning and persecuting secularist political activists to replace them with state-owned religious fundamentalist extremist organizations.

Recently a person was sentenced to death on the charges of blasphemy for posting anti-religious comments on Facebook and Pakistani state warned the Facebook authorities to either remove anti-religious content from the Facebook or otherwise to completely shut it down in Pakistan.

The anti-extremist bloggers like Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed and Salman Hyder were illegally detained, tortured and harassed for weeks to withdraw secularist liberal social media activism. Hence, the Facebook Public Policy Vice President Mr. Joel Kaplnn met the Federal Home Minister of Pakistan and assured him to remove all the so-called blasphemy and sectarian content from the Facebook.

As we have described earlier that Pakistan uses religion and blasphemy as a tool to gain its political objectives hence it has blackmailed Facebook authorities to silence the righteous secular liberal voices of the people and political organizations of Sindh and Baluchistan provinces in the name of religion.

The people of Sindh and Baluchistan have been struggling against political-economic oppression and rights of their provinces since decades and in turn, Pakistani state has banned those secular liberal organizations to silence these righteous voices and shatter the political opposition on the account of their counter-narrative. Not only this but now Pakistani state has banned all the social media accounts and pages related to these secular liberal righteous political organizations.

Recently, an Indian journalist Aveek Sen posted a letter on twitter written by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) recommending Facebook authorities to ban eleven distinct Facebook pages related to Sindhi and Baloch secular political organization out of which 10 pages were related to these organizations while only one page was related to a religious organization i.e. Tahreek e Jaafariya as an exception. Responding to the request the Facebook has closed the recommended pages in Pakistan and when users try to open any of these pages find this message.

Additionally, more than thirty Sindhi social media activists have reported their Facebook accounts disabled for same reasons after the appearance of the PTA letter in social media circles.

Therefore, this is clear from the above context that the ten pages related to secular political organizations have been closed in Pakistan by scapegoating one Facebook page of the religious organization.

The popular Facebook page among the banned pages is that of Mr. Shafi Burfat (Chairman JSMM) who has been living on political asylum in Germany. And what’s the most astonishing is that this page has been verified and assigned the official “blue tick mark” by the Facebook itself.

According to Facebook community policies the only pages pertaining to public figures and reputed organizations are eligible for verification and thus Facebook authorities have negated their own principle by banning the page of a public figure in his own native homeland.

This is an undeniable fact that Pakistan has been among the worst countries regarding the freedom of press, media, expression and political oppositions. The cases of print, electronic and social media censorship, killings of journalists and state torture have been evident to the fact that the notion of state being a security state and banana republic have been largely true in the context of its purge upon the counter-narrative presented by the freelance media.

Certain State institutions and their policies largely suffocating the entire socio-political framework of the society have been “holy cows” since its creation. Sindhi, Baloch, Kashmiri and Pashtun rightist secular voices have long been atop the list of censorship and vulnerable to potential retaliation by these “holy” institutions.

The international laws and values of social justice, equality and liberty have never been respected and complied by the state itself. Therefore, it’s the need of the time that international community and human rights defenders must respond to these state-imposed bans on the right to freedom of expression and speech of the Sindhi and Baloch secular liberal voices.