ISLAMABAD - Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday expressed grave concern over the government's bid to make a pitch for stifling dissent and freedom of expression just when frontiers of human rights were expanding worldwide.

In a statement, he said that freedom of expression had been increasingly attacked by both state and non-state actors on various pretexts.

“This trend must be resisted and reversed,” Zardari said.

Next to the right to life, the right to freedom of expression is fundamental as all other rights flow from this right, he said.

“Curbing right to freedom of expression in effect means curbing all other rights. The Pakistan People’s Party cannot and will not allow it,” Zardari said.

Clamping a ban on social media and otherwise curbing expression and dissent in the name of vaguely defined “national security” must not be allowed to go unchallenged, he said.

Zardari said that the government could not be allowed to wield power arbitrarily or whimsically.

“There has to be balance between concerns of “national security” on the one hand and the fundamental right of people to freedom of expression on the other. The balance must be tilted in favour of freedom of expression in accordance with [the] best democratic practices,” he said.

The former president recalled how the previous PPP government endured media criticism that at times was vicious against his person and other leaders of the party but at no stage the party contemplated clamping curbs on the media.

PPP Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar added that Zardari had already directed the party's legislative committee to deliberate on the issue and suggest appropriate legislative measures to ensure that the right to freedom of expression was not curbed on any pretext.

The PPP will forcefully resist bid to silence political dissent or curb freedom of expression in the name of security or ideology, he said.