Pakistan has always been a national security state, but in recent years has become Orwellian. The recent announcement by the government of a task force that would “police social media for ‘anti-army’ content” is not only a bad idea but one that has potential of being misused and used to crack down further on free speech.
According to an editorial in Dawn, “This is only the latest in a series of arbitrary moves to increase punishment for criticism of the army and other state institutions. For example, last month the cabinet considered a bill to intensify the crackdown on social media, while in April 2021, during the PTI’s rule, a law was proposed that called for two years in jail and a fine for those who “intentionally ridicule the armed forces”.”
The Dawn editorial warned that such task forces are “anathema to democratic culture. In a free society, all state institutions must be open to criticism from the people. True, clear cases of defamation or calls to promote violence are a different matter, but there already exist laws on the statute books to address these situations.”