Everyone in Pakistan is ostensibly struggling for democracy. The PPP raises the ghosts of past leaders to fight for it, Imran Khan vows to be its true harbinger, the MQM claims to be the sole representative of repressed Urdu-speaking Karachites, the parliament makes a grand show of protecting it and even the military vows to uphold it. What is this democracy? Is it the process of elections? Parliamentary lawmaking? Standing committees and official enquires? It increasingly seems the system, the mere manifestation of the democratic philosophy, is idolised while true democratic principles lie rusting in the corner.

The ban on YouTube is in its third year. Despite a unilateral resolution by the National Assembly, verdict by the court of law, across the board condemnation, and effective methods to control incendiary material, the government has still not unbanned it and seems unlikely to ever do so. The diseased argument of ‘backlash’ is wheeled out every time to prop up excuses. Is there any quantifiable evidence there will be backlash? And even if there will be some, will it be as severe as to outweigh the good of the act? More importantly, is it not the job of the government to weather misguided public outcry? It faces far worse backlash when there is a hike in electricity prices. Yet the government continues to raise tariffs. Was the ‘dharna’ not the biggest backlash imaginable? The government is happy to collect salaries in democratic institutions but acts cowardly when it comes to fighting for them. Yet, this is not an isolated incident; a dangerous malaise has crept into the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). According to the “Government Requests Report”, issued by the social networking site, Facebook, PTA has requested Facebook to ban enormous amounts of content from being accessible in Pakistan, a number that has increased ten-fold compared to the last report. This includes pages like “Roshni.pk”, a group lobbying for secularism, and “Laal the Band” a group of musicians who criticise the Taliban. From where do the heads of PTA get the authority to impose on the public their outdated and perverse notions of ‘appropriate material’. What qualifications do they have through which they can independently assess the good of the nation? How does their job description equal that of ‘protector of the nation’s morals’. There is no concrete, published policy on what qualifies as objectionable material; the members are not even representatives of the public. Yet they continue to ban whatever tickles their fancy.

Democracy is built on the idea of freedom of speech. The idea that through open discourse and debate, the public can come to the conclusion about what they should value. Voting doesn’t create a democracy, voicing opinions does. Thought control and imposition of ‘acceptable subjects’ are more suitable to a dictatorship.