The Pakistani state has a long history of labelling any form of democratic dissent as treason or sedition. In previous year, these labels were reserved for leaders not from Punjab – whether , Bengali leaders (A.K. Fazlul Haq, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardi), Pashtun (Bacha Khan), Sindhi (GM Syed, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto), or Muhajir.
With the recent cases and charges of sedition against former President (Asif Ali Zardari) and three-time former Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) it appears as though even Punjabis and Kashmiris (sitting Premier of AJK) can be labelled as treasonous as long as they disagree with the views of the establishment.
As an editorial in Dawn points out this “colonial curse of the sedition law hangs over us like the sword of Damocles, with dozens of political leaders and lawmakers being booked overnight in a case of alleged rebellion against the state.”
As the editorial notes, “in the past, such cases initiated by private citizens have been filed at the behest of elements that have generously handed out certificates of ‘traitorhood’ to activists and politicians. The entire episode reeks of panic, paranoia and poor thinking. That the prime minister of AJK was booked under this controversial law is preposterous and makes a mockery of Pakistan’s principled stand on Kashmir.”
The Editorial reminds us “The draconian sedition law was a tool for the British to suppress the freedom struggle in the subcontinent against imperialism. Yet, this British Raj relic still haunts us today. The trend of labelling political opponents and critics as traitors, and accusing them of sedition, must end, and the government must investigate what happened in this case and revisit this repressive law.”