Many of us paint the term ‘freedom’ with gory analogies of our independence movement against India. This is wrong. Freedom does not need a context; it is not dependent on a background. The term freedom, defined by Oxford University as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants” is a universal phenomenon, one that transcends all types of geographies. And yet, it stands disputed, especially in Pakistan. The practice is kept restrained, suffocated by chains harnessed out of dogmas and primitive mindset which encourage intolerance. It is argued that freedom must have its limits making what is eventually awarded an oxymoronic ugly mesh of polar opposites. The limits are imposed out of hypocrisy, biases and bigotry. Not many complain against the debauched, mutated and mutilated freedom made available to the common Pakistani. As has been apparent, the not complaining constitutes a big part of being Pakistani.

Let’s look at freedom for the Pakistan of today. Pakistan was ranked amongst the 10 worst countries in the world in terms of internet freedom by Freedom House in its report titled ‘Freedom on the internet 2014’. The report sheds light on the many rights abuses in Pakistan ranging from ‘violations of user rights’ to ‘limits on content’. It highlighted how YouTube remained ridiculously blocked since September 2012 with no clear declaration from the authorities of it’s unblocking. The report also highlighted how the government had been indulging in surveillance tactics while also targeting users by blocking out content from their personal cyber spaces. The laughable use of filtering to block away nationalist websites, Wikipedia pages on scientists and blogging websites have become a norm for every Pakistani user today. With its short-sighted approach, the powers that be, have also restricted academic research for biology students, hampering their research pursuits. The story of course does not end here. In order to further institutionalize the criminalization of developing an opinion, the government has proposed the cybercrime bill, one it remains adamant to make part of the country’s law. The bill for one restricts political analysis and critique, discourages internet expressionism and imposes absurd pre-requisites to what is normal usage of internet. The relentless subjugation imposed by this debacle of a government recently found a new target: INGOs. The international entities which have been working endlessly to provide the common Pakistani what is their social right [health, freedom, economic necessities; all of which are responsibilities of the state] are now being tarnished as agents dancing onto the tunes of foreign agenda. Staying true to the norm, the government has made a mockery of itself by taking emotional measures only to retract them moments later (or as soon as the international community comments on their absurdity).

As of the latest indices Pakistan ranks 122nd in social progress Index from 133 countries, it ranks 127 out of 142 countries in terms of overall prosperity, it ranks 139 out of 142 countries in Safety and Security index, has recorded the lowest level of satisfaction (44% as compared to global average of 73%) with freedom of choice in the Asia-pacific region for each of the last five years and ranks 159 out of 180 countries in terms of Press Freedom.

All of that said, the rant above provides an impersonal look at how bad things are in Pakistan. The statistics for the general masses, remain what they are, mere numbers. Not many feel the stub of the tragedy unless and until an idiosyncratic episode bares our wounds to us.

Friday the 26th of June was one such jolting episode. It saw the U.S. Supreme Court rule in favor of same-sex marriages. There were celebrations across the world on this, after all America has a trend of setting precedents. There was hope amongst these celebrators that the same –the freedom to choose – would follow in their country as well. Pakistan too saw its share of rainbow washed display pictures of individuals who’d want social freedom and liberation in their country. The social media became a lively and colorful bazaar. The world had come one step closer to being ‘human’.

And then everything changed. There was furor, one not seen ever since the godforsaken dharnas. The decision was ridiculed and those celebrating it were painted in the usual (and indeed notoriously redundant) banter of being misguided ‘liberal fascists’. A certain ‘celebrity’ gentleman who has a nag for voicing a self-righteous critique on almost everything under the sun, came to the forefront by terming the choice as ‘taboo even in animals’. His brigade of moral crusaders followed suit. Social media became a war zone of supposed pious versus the seemingly profanity spurring liberals.

The discussion is not of importance, after all opinionated discourse has no place in academic discussion. However, the attitude exhibited cannot be pondered upon enough. The arguments were ridden with personal attacks. Religion was profoundly used to brandish the other immoral. Unlearned and emotional stances were pushed forth as facts. The essence of the importance of the decision was misinterpreted to the extent of absurdity. Laughable comparisons and hypothesis clogged the rants. ‘Educated’ individuals promulgated incoherence and advocated nerve-wreckingly uninformed opinions. The days that followed, only made everything worse.

Such moments tend to remind those who observe how far the nation has travelled in its odyssey of evolution. This is especially important in the case of Pakistan. The metaphor for our educated populace is their presence on the social media. The same medium acts as the voice piece for the young population, one that finds the indulgence in the more traditional venues of exposé laborious. It is these young and ‘educated’ individuals who will dominate Pakistan’s future discourse. With all this in mind, it is safe to say that the fissure observed after the same-sex decision was but one of many instances where we saw the future that Pakistan is destined to embrace. A future where, the term freedom gets even painfully straitjacketed in line with personal whims, a future where intellectual-suffocation becomes a pre-requisite to living, where tolerance is defined as not voicing an opinion different from the majority. The worst part of this harrowing realization is that the problem is no more the state, it’s the individual.