The beards have taken the capital hostage, or so they want the world to believe. In all honesty though, besides some congested traffic spots, life goes on as usual. The beards exaggerate their influence when it comes to on-ground, social movements. However, they do continue to dictate our terms for us: national, social and culture. There and then, they don’t exaggerate.

The present government is as Pakistani as Pakistan itself. It plays with fire and then burns itself in it. This is what Pakistan did, and continues to do with the mujahedeen. With this government, we had ridiculous policies that have paved way for these beards to, today, claim they have held the capital hostage. First and foremost, the youtube ban. Anusha Rahman came up with the most pathetic justifications for shutting away a website that has much to offer to its visitors. The rationale for the banning stemmed out of a video posted by someone in Egypt. Funny how we, the Pakistanis, seem to firmly believe that we alone are the saviors of the faith. While no other country followed suit, Pakistan found it important to materialize their protest with the banning of the website. From 2012 to 2016, the government blocked the website, demanding Youtube remove a video the State insisted was blasphemous. Of course, the website did not give in to the demand and insisted that this infringed the rights of freedom of speech. As a reaction, our intelligent government took away access of the website from its people. Of course they knew that there was more to Youtube than the ‘blasphemous’ video. For example, as many would know already, video tutorial available on the website offer many users the opportunity to self-learn, to gain skills and to work out problems. Then, there are those Youtube celebrities who earn through youtube with Vlogs and similar videos. And then, there is the element of both information and entertainment, something that is more effective via videos than written text. I am sure, the government knew all this and yet, they chose to ban a venue of freedom and liberation based on a rather foolish stand. If Pakistan believed it alone could define what freedom of speech is, it was indeed foolish of them. These definitions and benchmarks are set after transnational coordination and is based on decades worth of sociological literature. No, no country in the world can be allowed to dictate the terms, no matter how sensitive the issue might be. Anyways, that was then. That was when this journey started. The journey that led these beards to lay claim to their ridiculous demands today.

More recently, the ever-dramatic Chaudhry Nisar saw fit to institutionalize the blasphemy Laws of the country by spearheading a national crackdown on content online. As a result, the beards saw pounced on this new door opened and have since been using the Law in various forms and versions, insisting on their implementations. Nisar and Justice Shaukat Aziz insisted that Facebook et al should be banned unless they agree to our terms. These terms however were as bigoted and suffocating as those ushered in by the beards that occupy the capital today. These two probably thought that they were refining the society by such bizarre injunctions. However, it would be no surprise if they themselves knew that with these demands, they were opening floodgates of religious intolerance, fundamentalism and blatant bigotism in the society. For them, probably, this was worth the cause which was, basically, to crumble the rights of one’s freedom of speech.

Today, these measures can be seen in the protest in the capital at the moment. The beards genuinely believe that they are going to save the nation’s spiritual honor with this sit-in. Just like the all involved genuinely believe that a blasphemer has to be killed in the most brutal way as an act of revenge. Many who see this sit-in see these beards as mere puppets with someone else pulling the strings. That might be true but, make no mistake about it, they genuinely believe that their actions are directed towards their causes and this alone is more alarming than any conspiracy. The fact that people in this time and age exist to pursue such actions is a reminder of how less evolved we are as a society. It is a start reminder of how we have a long way to go when reasonable rationale will take precedents and emotional outbursts will be snubbed away. Alas, where we are today are direct results of our own actions. We let countries exploit us. We nurtured our own fissures. And now, this is what our mistakes have lead us to: the beards occupying our liberal spaces.