How Twitter’s Unbanning of Pakistani Accounts Can Backfire

by
Sameera Ehteram
Twitter lifes its ban on porn and blasphemous tweets in Pakistan.

twitter

"We have reexamined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted," Twitter said in a statement. "The content is now available again in Pakistan."

This act, no matter how welcoming it may seem, can sound the trumpets of doom, or at least serious trouble, for many in Pakistan. In a country that tends to see its people taking the law in their hands and killings on charges of "blasphemy" and "indecency" all too frequently, the act may have some unattractive repercussions.

Read More: Survivor Of Attempted Honor Killing Tells Her Horrific Tale

The move seems to have brought certain Twitter accounts in the limelight. If their activities were going unnoticed before, they may not any longer. As recent incidents show, getting noticed for thoughts and reflections even slightly going against religious and moral values can most certainly spell doom.

The gravity of treatment of those even deemed suspicious of blasphemy in Pakistan can be understood from the fact that it can trap anyone from a teenage girl to a high ranking minister.

Pakistan Minister

In 2011 the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, seen in the picture above sitting with the Christian woman he was defending, was assassinated by his own security guard apparently because he spoke out against the country's controversial blasphemy law. His assassin was lauded by many as a hero; the judge who sentenced him to death had to flee for his life.

Read More: Salman Taseer’s Murder Throws Pakistan Into Fresh Crisis

“The blasphemy laws that led to the murder of Salmaan Taseer are as serious a threat as the Taliban,” wrote Mustafa Qadri for the Guardian.

He went on to write that the country’s blasphemy laws are an abject failure and how even the police rarely investigates before arresting alleged blasphemers. No one would dare.

Similar was the fate of Pakistan's Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who died after two gunmen opened fire on his car in the capital, Islamabad, as a punishment for his efforts to reform the country's blasphemy law.

Pakistan’s Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S Sherry Rehman was also accused of blasphemy and faced threats to her life.

“Mutatis mutandis, Pakistan has become a country so scared of the inciters of religious violence that liberals stay silent for fear the assassins will come for them,” said Nick Cohen, writing for the Observer.

Ali Sethi, writing for The New York Times had similar observations to share, “The blasphemy laws can serve just about anyone with a dark design — an angry relative, an envious colleague, a neighbor with his eye on your property. But the greatest beneficiary has been the professional Islamists, who specialize in their application to encroach on both state and society.”

Ironically, Ali Sethi’s piece was completely censored in Pakistan:

Watch: We are Scared, We are Terrified: Religious Minorities of Pakistan

Keeping these observations in mind one wonders about the consequences of this banning and unbanning of Twitter accounts.

Have these accounts now become prominent and more noticeable by the so called protectors of faith? Are they safe? Will this act backfire?

These are all very valid questions in many Pakistani minds.

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