- Outlandish warnings that are a source of embarrassment for the country
Despite being a direct beneficiary of unregulated social media that helped propel the party into being a mainstream political contender, the PTI, since coming to power after winning the 2018 general elections has made all-out efforts to control the type and flow of content on the internet without having to outright ban major platforms and websites. To achieve this, it has to regularly request social media behemoths such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to take down selective content that is deemed offensive and sacrilegious. The latest example of this is the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issuing a notice to Wikipedia to take down a page titled ‘Present Khalifa of Islam’ containing information about Mirza Mansoor Ahmad who is recognised by the Ahmadiyya community as their fifth ‘caliph’. Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that is publicly accessible and can be modified by users within certain limits. The second amendment to the constitution of Pakistan in 1974 declared Ahmedis non-Muslims and in 1984 Zia-ul-Haq passed an anti-Ahmadiyya ordinance that further restricted the community from practising their religion freely. These laws are exclusive to Pakistan and are therefore implementable within its borders, but beyond that, to expect a website that is viewed the world over where a vast array of information is published and updated daily, to adhere to the religious proclivities of a single nation is simply outlandish.
While the most advertised portion of the PTI’s election manifesto, both in 2013 and 2018, was to bring an end to corruption and emerge as a fresh much-needed political force that would do away with the status quo, it was also envisioned, at least by its voters, to be progressive and tolerant, projecting Pakistan on the world stage as a contender when it came to upholding the democratic principles of accountability, religious tolerance and freedom of speech. The party’s treatment of conventional media that now works in an environment of forced self-censorship, and its fresh initiative to force social media into a similar sort of submission, displays a complete departure from the electorate’s expectations. There is a presence of both rampant hypocrisy and a severe detachment from reality when on one hand federal institutions such as the PTA are issuing warnings such as the one it has and then there is an outcry from the government when the USA places the country on a religious freedom blacklist.