Hate speech, extremism and rule of law

Shaiza Kanwal

According to the rule of law, a hate speech is a speech that attacks an individual or group of individuals on the basis of religious orientation, race, gender, disability, national origin and ethnic origin. While in contrast, extremism is the advocacy of extreme religious or political views.  Extremism is basically the vocal or active opposition of the fundamental values of a country. Extremism is defined in Pakistan in a number of ways, mainly in political, religious and social contexts. The definition and implications of hate speech and extremism is different in every society, mainly because of the dynamics that persists within it. But in our context, the difficulty that arises is the effectiveness of the rule of law regarding hate speech and extremism.

The dawn investigation report says that 41 out of 64 extremist organizations banned by the government operate freely online.

In this context and in the lights of latest efforts by National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) to introduce a smart phone application to report hate speech.

This Android-iOS app CHAUKAS is for public to report hate speech and extremist content online and offline.

The data and information gathered will then be shared by police, FIA and other law enforcement and regulatory authorities in Pakistan.

However, a smartphone application won’t stop hate speech. It is important to consider law concerning hate speech and extremism in the country.

The article 19 of the constitution of Pakistan 1973 provides the concept of freedom of speech.

The freedom of speech is the foundation of democracy and also the fundamental of free government for free people.

“Any attempt, by anyone, to impede, stifle, or contravene, such right would certainly foul of the freedom guaranteed under the article 19 of constitution of Pakistan”.

Laws relating to the hate speech exist in section 505(2) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) that makes creating or promoting “feeling of enmity, ill-will or hatred between different religious, racial, language, or regional group or castes or communities”.

The section 8 of the anti-terrorism act prohibits acts intended or likely to stir up sectarian hatred through “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior”, including possession, display, publication or distribution of such material in recorded, visual image or in sound form.

The country has also adopted an “anti-terrorism” framework on order to address extremist activity and sectarian violence in the country.

In the context of increasing extremism and sectarian violence, the then Nawaz Sharif government promulgated the anti-terrorism act 1997, establishing Pakistan principal antiterrorism regime in the last few years.

The country also passed a number of additional laws, including the National Counterterrorism Authority Act, the Investigation for Fair Trial Act, the Protection of Pakistan Act of 2014, and several amendments to the Anti-terrorism Act of 1997.

In December 2014, the Prime Minister announced a twenty-point National Action Plan to counter terrorism that included proposals to establish military courts to try alleged terrorists, strengthen National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), and counter hate speech and extremist material.  More recently, however, Pakistan’s antiterrorism efforts have become increasingly militarized with the passage of the 21st Constitutional Amendment Act and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015, which provide the legal framework for establishing specialized military courts to try civilian terrorist suspects.

Hate speech was also one of the main action points of the National Action Plan formulated after the APS Peshawar tragedy in 2014. Point 5 resolved for “strict action against the literature, newspapers and magazines promoting hatred, extremism, sectarianism, and intolerance”.

Under this, the interior ministry last March reported to have arrested 19,289 individuals, sealed 70 shops, and confiscated 5,141 items over hate speech and extremist literature.

Safeguarding and supporting Pakistan’s next generation requires a sustained effort and not vote-garnering, political statements.

The rise in the hate speech and extremism cannot be quantified. Various policies and laws are developed that are well-intentioned but lacks cohesive political will to carry forward.

In environments that are conducive to intolerance and violence, there is a heavy- duty on the state to create secure and inclusive spaces for young people to flourish.



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