After multiple FIRs were registered against Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) supremo Altaf Hussain in various regions of Sindh and other provinces, for “inflammatory remarks” against the military, the LHC becomes the first court to ban the live telecast of MQM Chief’s speeches on TV channels till further orders.

Workers and supporters of the MQM had already protested in front of the Karachi Press Club against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for allegedly imposing an unannounced ban on airing Altaf Hussain’s speeches on television channels. Leaders of the MQM have called this move an unfair one aimed at curbing the party’s freedom of speech and singling out the party, an allegation they have maintained since the Karachi operation began.

Although the remarks that the MQM chief has leveled against the army are highly condemnable and inappropriate, the ban on speech is unnecessary. If there must be proceedings against him, his right to free speech is just an easy target. The real focus should be his criminal activity, and the state and courts seem to be creating distractions rather than doing actual work. If registering FIRs against him, and registering a case with the Scotland Yard as well, have not delivered a serious enough warning, a clamp on speeches will hardly inflict damage. We need to ask the important question of how effective banning the Chief’s speeches will be at this point, when the party workers are so agitated already? If the man is so dangerous, that is speech must be banned, maybe it is better to hear what we are dealing with and allow him to implicate himself further.

And, has Pemra been successful in completely controlling broadcasted messages against the state? What about the cable operators functioning illegally in the low income populated areas, where regulation is all but impossible? Are they able to control the nature of the content aired, which is rife with message of hate and sectarianism?

Altaf Hussein’s speeches are almost always borderline ridiculous, and yes he deserved the backlash he received for hate speech against the state. But he is, whether we agree or not, a revered politician for many, those who look forward to hear from their leader and these broadcasted messages are the only way. To ban them would only incite violence that could tip the delicate balance of peace that Karachi is seemingly maintaining.

Another important aspect to keep in mind is that the Lahore High Court has banned the speeches, not the Sindh High Court. Punjab already has little MQM support and such a decision would only create a rift and increase the differences between the two provinces.