Original Articles

Story of Laibaah: Death of free speech in Pakistan – by Sumantra Maitra

A Pakistani human rights activist was harassed and threatened and even blocked from Twitter when she spoke about minority rights in Pakistan

Cross-posted from Daily World Watch

Hey guys! Yet another of my post starting with a “sorry” to you all. I have not been regular, I know, guilty as charged. Preparations of shifting to New Zealand, being one of the primary reasons. Also, some family and personal stuff. And I am cutting down on regular journalism, as you guys know, and writing columns on Foreign affairs and reviewing books occasionally, and searching for more column writing opportunities too. So, a bit occupied you might say.

Obviously, the World never stops for anyone. But ever since I read about the new ongoing Cold War between US and Pakistan, (and heaven knows our neighbours are in the limelight for quite sometime now, for all wrong reasons as usual!) I was wondering if I could get a guest post for you all, from a person in the know, someone who is somehow involved more directly in it.

So here it is. This time, Laiba Ahmad Marri, human rights activist from Pakistan, who was harassed and threatened and even blocked for sometime from Twitter, was kind (and sarcastic!) enough to write a first hand account of freedom of speech and related issues, when it comes to speaking about minority rights in Pakistan, especially Balochs. Here’s her previous story about her harassment. And just in case you want some background info, here is my old Op-Ed in Washington Examiner, about the revolt in Balochistan. So without further ado… (Sumantra Maitra)

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As a Twitter-based activist who tries to highlight the role of the marginalized and oppressed communities on social media and the blogesphere, my biggest support has been Pakistan’s human rights organizations and its 30 odd liberal tweeples. The caluminy, slander and abuse that the pile on me tells me that the plight of human rights is just fine in Pakistan. I am completely overwhelmed by their generosity and understanding when they have repeatedly tried to block my account and dehumanize me as a computer program.

If Ali Dayan Hasan is a senior member of Pakistan’s HRW branch, then I recommend that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s chief Malik Ishaq be made its chief. Ali Dayan Hasan publicly dehumanized me on Twitter as a computer virus as Malik Ishaq dehumanizes Pakistan’s Shia Muslim population as hate worthy objects just as Hafiz Saeed of LeT dehumanizes other minorities including Hindus and Christians. As they are clearly more effective at dehumanizing individuals as compared to Ali Dayan, they should be more senior in his areas of work, which happens to be Human Rights.

In all seriousness, I owe my twitter profile to those Baloch, Pashtun, Ahmadi Muslim, Shia Muslim and other twitter activists who rally around me and provide me with support and friendship. And the courage and will to fight back.

ANYONE who is on the wrong side of Pakistan’s military establishment and its proxies that include the judiciary, media (both rabid right and psueudo left-liberal) and much of Pakistan’s “civilized society”, is in danger at the hands of the Jihad enterprise; a creation of the Deep State. Today, Pakistan’s Baloch, Shia, Hindu, Sikh, and Christians who oppose the Taliban and their Jihadi friends are fair game. Women and LGBT members are obviously equally at risk. This is unacceptable to my friends and me on Twitter as is the deliberate obfuscation that is undertaken by the pseudo liberals to deflect criticism away from the role of the establishment in creating such an environment.

The average Pakistani who visits shrines, mandirs, imambargahs and churches and recites Naat at mosques are very decent and open-hearted. They are the ones who strive for a better life and regularly exercise their right to vote thus standing by Pakistan’s nascent democracy. It is Pakistan’s educated, anti-democracy urban elites who not only maintain but reinforce the skewed hateful narratives against minority ethnicities, sects and religious communities. For instance, the Baloch nationalist struggle which is as old as Pakistan is now portrayed as a RAW-initiated action undertaken by over privileged Baloch Sardars by Pakistan’s ultra nationalistic media. This kind of racist and chauvinist discourse is typical of the view that prevailed amongst the same class when they reduced Bengali nationalists in a similar manner just before the Bangladesh war, which is sad and self destuctive.

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7 Comments

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  • I don’t believe Ali Dayan sahab can utter these words. Somebody might have hacked his account.

  • BREAKING

    congratulations. Laibaah’s Twitter account has been suspended again. Did the present post cause this?

  • The words “Twitter-based activist” are laugh inducing, to say the least. It is as if instead of other people trying to caricature you, you are doing it yourself.
    Please don’t take yourself too seriously. The people who are actually risking their lives for minority rights (I’m not one of them, unfortunately, but know some of them personally) are actually suppressed in ways worse than merely having their twitter accounts cancelled.

  • TheseLongWars TLW
    Wow, kutti @Laibaah gone.Glad to see her gone, but a twinge of aww maybe cause I fought her off so many times & she came back for more abuse. Sparks will fly gentlemen and ladies, watch out for @Laibaah2 #BitchBeBackSoon #SomeOneGonnaGetAHurtRealBad And then will beat her again 🙂

    beenasarwar beena sarwar
    +1 @AliDayan: @Laibaah Why do u spend all yr time (anonymously) attacking human rights defenders and orgs rather than human rights abusers?

    beenasarwar beena sarwar
    Folks attacking HRCP are only playing into the hands of those creating divisions among progressive-minded Pakistanis. Liberal fascists = hide behind anonymous ids, have progressive pretensions, attack others who have moderate views.

    Razarumi Raza Rumi
    RT @AliDayan: U know @Laibaah, yr attack on HRCP is unwarranted, unnecessary & counter-productive. @Laibaah If U R going 2 attack HRCP, an organisation which has bn at the forefront of HR struggles, U will B on the side of rt wing fascists

    AliDayan
    Call Microsoft, get in touch with Twitter, rumor has it the ISI has unleashed the @Laibaah virus. It kills all human rights activists. The @Laibaah virus originates in US and targets & kills human rights activists in Pak so it can run HR movt from cyberspace as Supreme Leader