Islamabad February 3, 2017: “We live in perilous times as not only ordinary citizens go missing and disappear without trace but even the Father of the Nation has gone missing from the collective memory of the nation as his ideas and vision have been systematically distorted and erased”.
This was stated by Senator Farhatullah Babar at the book launch of “Jinnah as a parliamentarian” compiled by eminent human rights activist I A Rehman, former Minister later Malik Muhammad Jaffar and late journalist, author and researcher Ghani Jaffar in Lok Virsa auditorium Friday evening.
The real Jinnah and his modern and liberal ideas seem to have been kidnapped by his ideological adversaries ever since his famous August 11, 1947 speech in the Constituent Assembly declaring that religion will have nothing to do with the affairs of the state and his ideals, philosophy and vision sought to be erased from the collective conscience of the people, he said.
The process of hijacking Jinnah through intellectual dishonesty was set in motion with the blackout of his August 11 speech he said and added that it was taken forward by Zia asking people to burn copies of Justice Munir’s book “From Jinnah to Zia” and surreptitiously deleting from the preamble of the Constitution the word ‘freely’ in relation to the right of the Non-Muslims to practice their religion.
Even the current book “Jinnah as a parliamentarian” which was first compiled in 70’s did not see the light of the day under Zia’s dictatorship when intellectual dishonesty and corruption reigned supreme, he said.
It is really not possible to understand Jinnah and his philosophy without reading this book. We have yet to understand Jinnah, listen to him and learn from him. While we hang his pictures on the walls the real Jinnah is missing and has joined the ranks of disappeared persons. In order to trace and recover him we have to read and understand him and this book helps exactly in doing that.
Two thoughts of Jinnah are most evident from his speeches in the Parliament. One is about freedom of expression and the other about Fair Trial and civil liberties.
His three speeches on the subject of freedom of expression, arising out of a notice served on a newspaper in Allahabad, reflect the principles and policies that he believed were immutable.
His famous quotation “If you give me the freedom of the speech I have the freedom to publish it, otherwise the privilege is useless”, highlights the principle underlying the immutable right of freedom of expression and should persuade us to reflect on freedom of expression in Pakistan, he said.
A great challenge to free expression of opinion comes from the façade of loosely defined ‘national security’. Not only information is denied under this pretext, the free expression and propagation of opinion is also curbed.
As an example he said that recently a Senate Committee did not allow media allowed to witness discussions on the National Command Authority Bill 2016 because such discussion was viewed as against national security interest.
Public interest in a publicly documented legislation was denied on grounds of ‘security interest’ in what he said must find a mention in the annals of dubious world records.
‘National security concerns’ are so all pervasive that even finds it safe to exercise unprecedented self-censorship.
Giving example he said that despite the presence of visuals of Mulla Mansoor’s assassination in May last the media kept saying that Mulla Mansoor was killed in Zabul because the deep state so desired.
It was only after President Obama’s announcement and admission by the Taliban that media came out of its mode of self-censorship. On issues of Kargil misadventure, Osama Bin Laden and nuclear proliferation also media’s self-censorship has been deafening, he said.
Freedom of expression is imperiled by a general intolerance towards the views that are contrary to the views of powerful guardian of security and the so called champions of ideology
He said while there are these declared and undeclared restrictions on expression there were no restrictions on hate speech which flourished defying ban on it, history continues to be distorted and curriculum defaced.
A new element had been introduced into the equation; those criticizing the state policies are made to disappear followed by a smear campaign of religiously inspired hatred campaign on the social media against them and asked the civil society and conscientious citizens to give it a serious thought.