In what comes as a blow to Pakistan, the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has refused to take up any action against the removal of #FreeBalochistan advertisements from London’s buses and taxis.
“I have informed the complainant that we will not pursue the matter because, based on the facts available to us, there doesn’t seem to be a breach of the UK Code of Non-Broadcasting Advertising (CAP Code),” a letter from the Complaint Executive of the organisation read.
The ASA Council acknowledged the subject of Baloch independence was a politically-sensitive one, but noted that “the advertiser had a right to express their views, as long as they were in line with the rules in the Advertising Code.”
The Council also clarified that its role was only limited to assessing what appeared within the ads themselves as opposed to what the ad intended to express.
“The Council considered that the tagline ‘#FreeBalochistan’ was an invitation to find out more about a particular political cause; and the ad itself did not make any specific claim that threatened the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Pakistan,” the letter further read.
The letter was a response to a complaint against the advertorial by the High Commissioner of Pakistan and one member of the general public.
The complainants objected to the ad, and specifically the slogan ‘#FreeBalochistan”, saying it was irresponsible and offensive to the Pakistani diaspora considering that Balochistan was an integral region of Pakistan.
Recently, the World Baloch Organisation, in a bid to spread awareness about the cause of Balochistan in the UK, launched its third phase of #FreeBalochistan advertising campaign. Under the campaign, London taxis with the words ‘Free Balochistan’ written on both sides were seen plying outside the Buckingham Palace, while 100 London buses carried adverts that said “Free Balochistan”, “Save The Baloch People” and “Stop Enforced Disappearances”.
The advertisement drew strong contempt from the Pakistan Government officials, who pressurised the British Government to remove the WBO’s adverts.
Indeed, within 24 hours, Transport for London ordered the removal of the taxi adverts; though the billboards remained because they were not on TfL property.
British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew expressed his country’s inability to control the advertisements, and at the same time maintained that the UK acknowledged Balochistan as an integral part of Pakistan.