The Lahore High Court (LHC) actions regarding Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain are clearly in excess, with only flimsy legal pegs upholding its decisions. After banning the live transmission of Altaf Hussain’s speeches from the television – which in itself is over-kill for his alleged transgressions – the court has banned the broadcast of all speeches and images of the MQM chief across all formats, including print and the internet. Not satisfied with just delivering this nonsensical ruling, the court directed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and Additional Attorney-General Naseer Ahmed Bhutta to implement a ban immediately and strictly.

Despite the fact that Altaf Hussain is an outspoken critic of the establishment, his party is plagued by criminal elements and he will win no national popularity polls at the moment, he still remains the head of a major political party – one that wields considerable power in Sindh. Silencing the opinions and views of that party is not only a violation of the rights guaranteed in the constitution – such as freedom of speech and freedom of political association – it also oppresses the class represented by the party. Banning his speeches would have been justified had he been openly preaching rebellion or inciting hate, but criticism of the armed forces should not merit such a ban. The vast majority of Pakistani politicians have grown up either working under military leadership or striving against it – both of which involve a healthy dose of criticism against the men in boots.

Even if the ban on his speeches was justified, what would banning his images achieve? Does a mere picture of Altaf Hussain inspire treason? Will his workers fall in line now they cannot see their chief’s face? It is a testament to the pettiness of the LHC judges that this line of questioning has to be pursued seriously.