March 14 was celebrated as the World Freedom Day. This is not the only time the world marks a day for freedom; there are a few other days reserved too.
So what does it mean celebrating the freedom day in this country, when there are qualifiers attached to most freedoms, especially those that are guaranteed in the Constitution? There is freedom of speech but there are institutions that cannot be maligned and then there is the ‘national interest’ which is defined in some distant corridor of power away from the domain of the common people. Even the parliament feels right in not debating some issues that it believes fall in the ‘national interest’ domain.
Has there been any serious attempt to define what freedom means or do we define it only in negative terms in this country — by counting the freedoms we do not have?
The prime minister has recently articulated the need to build a counter-narrative, without saying the narrative that needs to be countered was given or imposed by the state itself. Everyone is scared of stating the truth or even the facts. It is this freedom from fear that appears most relevant to today’s Pakistan.
Read also: Celebrating freedom day in Pakistan
Perhaps, this is the dilemma of all ideological states. But then people have suffered and continue to suffer, because they are fed falsehood and a conception of Other as children. They are not encouraged to question but to believe. The status of freedom for the minorities here is embarrassing. The arts and literature are tolerated as niche activities, but up to a certain point.
In our Special Report today, we also want to see what freedom means for women in this country.