The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) organized a seminar in Turbat on the topic of freedom of speech in Makran. Notable intellectuals, academics, literary and religious figures, and activists who participated spoke at the event and emphasized the need for freedom of speech in fostering a vibrant democracy.
HRCP Regional Coordinator and eminent Poet Prof. Ghani Parvaz addressed the gathering and said that freedom of speech is a fundamental human right. He said that we as individuals possess the right to express our thoughts and opinions via art, writing, and speech, provided that we keep with the codes of decency. He said open dialogue and discussion foster innovation and helps us understand each other better.
Prof. Parvaz said that there were no restrictions on freedom of speech in ancient times. He said that restrictions on freedom of speech were a byproduct of the colonial mindset – the ‘oppressors’ knew the power of free speech and tried their absolute best to curtail it. Slowly and gradually, the people realized they were being stifled. They started fighting for their right to free speech in a struggle that saw the deaths of prominent figures such as Spartacus, Socrates, Mansoor Hallaj, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Nouroz Khan, and Lala Usman Kakar, he said.
Drawing attention to the situation of free speech in Pakistan, Prof. Parvaz said that 46 journalists were killed, 18 wounded, and 4 ‘forcibly disappeared’ in the span of a year. He said that a sense of responsibility and sacrifice has underpinned the development of free and independent nations. Societies where these basic ingredients were missing lagged behind, and Pakistan is among them, he said.
BNP-Awami leader Khan Muhammad Gichki and Baloch activist Sammi Deen also addressed the gathering, saying that the freedom of speech in Pakistan exists on paper, but not in practice. They said that journalists, the news media, TV channels, and newspapers are not free, but controlled by the selected few in power. The Constitution of Pakistan cannot protect itself, let alone others. Journalists in this country have been detained, persecuted, flogged and even killed. Raziq Gul and Ilyas Nazar who were killed in Turbat were also journalists, they said.
Deputy Director of Social Welfare Qadeer Luqman said that during the subcontinent’s colonial era, our British overlords imposed severe restrictions on freedom of speech in their attempts to restrict the minds of the Indians. The Brits left decades ago, but the residue of their colonial mindset still persists.
Makran Bar Association’s leader Rustom Jan Gichki Advocate said that freedom of expression is the guarantor of the beauty of any society, and in Pakistan’s constitution, clear guarantees of freedom for every citizen and the press have been given.
Secretary General of Turbat Press Club, Majid Samad, said that the right to freedom of expression has been given to every citizen in the United Nations Charter, as well as in Pakistan, but under certain circumstances, the freedom of expression has been blocked within the constitution. There are restrictions on giving opinions on the country’s defence or religious matters, and social media is also heavily censored.
Abdul Majid Advocate, the spokesperson for Kech Bar Association, said that in the constitutions of Pakistan and all other countries of the world, citizens have been given the right to express their opinions, but unfortunately, in our country, human rights are being limited on a daily basis. Islam has also guaranteed the protection of human rights. Violence against Baloch women by state institutions is increasing among Baloch youth, which is alarming.
Speaking at the seminar, social worker Shahnaz Shabbir raised a point that travel companies neglect the compulsions of women and do not take adequate measures for their convenience on long routes.