By: Nasir Mehmood Kiyani

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

~Benjamin Franklin

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression is not only a constitutional privilege but it’s also a basic building block of a free society. The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees and protects the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression through article 19.

According to article 19 of the constitution of Pakistan “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, or incitement to an offence.”

Since the ouster of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan from the PM office through a regime change operation by following the Chile and Iran regime change model, freedom of speech and expression has been curtailed. The state of Pakistan rather than protecting its citizens as directed in constitution, tried to silence every dissenting voice. Through state machinery, peaceful protests against this regime-change operation were dealt with brutal force. Journalists who are raising questions on this regime-change operation are being responded with FIA notices or being nominated in “Patriot” FIRs.

Seasoned journalist Imran Riaz Khan is among these victim journalists who is paying the price for raising questions on the conduct of the state and for exposing those who “cooked” this operation regime change. Imran Riaz Khan is among those few journalists who stood shoulder to shoulder with their forces who were fighting at front line against the menace of terrorism. From Chirat to Siachin and from the warm waters of Gawader to the Arabian Sea, Imran Riaz Khan covered and highlighted the achievements and sacrifices of our soldiers.

After the removal of Imran Khan from PM office, Imran Riaz Khan started raising questions about the role of “Pawns’ used in this game of chess and tried to unveil the “hand” which was moving these pawns.

Consequently, He first “quit’ his job as an anchorperson and signed the agreement with another media channel but this could not be materialized purportedly due to later mentioned reasons.

This does not end here and around 20 FIRs have been registered against him under sedition charges for his critical journalism. All these FIRs were registered in different cities of Pakistan under the same pattern. Content and intent behind these FIRs seem the brainchild of “One same person.”

In all above mentioned FIRs, two similar patterns exist. Firstly, FIRs covered all three platforms TV, social media and YouTube. Secondly, the content of every FIR of each category follows the almost same pattern, same words and same sentence structure. It reflects the intentions of those who are purportedly behind these FIRs.

Another important point is that these FIRs are registered under section 20 of the PECA ordinance which has been declared unlawful and unconstitutional and against the spirit of the constitution of Pakistan by the honourable Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court Athar Minallah. In his written order, honourable Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court declared that the PECA Ordinance violates articles 9,14,19 and 19-A of the constitution of Pakistan. 

All these FIRs and “malicious” efforts could not stop Imran Riaz Khan from being vocal about operation regime change and the only thing he wants is answers of his questions.

This all did not end here and the state opted to “return the favour” for his patriotism and for being an unconditional supporter of the armed forces. According to Imran Riaz Khan, he has been placed under the surveillance of intelligence agencies. All licenses of his weapons have been cancelled.

According to the document available with Reporters Diary, the NOC of his bulletproof vehicle has also been cancelled/withdrawn.

All these actions indicate that state machinery is purportedly creating an environment for his abduction and that’s why the protective shield around him is being removed.

To sum up, it would be better to conclude with these historical words of Quaid e Azam from his speech in Indian Legislative Assembly in 1929, “Will you have a little more imagination? Have you got any statesmanship left? Have you got any political wisdom? This is not the way you are going to solve the root cause of the trouble. You may temporarily, provisionally get over this particular trial. Is there today in any part of the globe a civilized government that is engaged, day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out, in prosecuting their people? Try and concentrate your mind on the root cause and the more you concentrate on the root cause the less difficulties and inconveniences there will be for you to face, and thank Heaven that the money of the taxpayer will not be wasted in prosecuting men, nay citizens, who are fighting and struggling for the freedom of their country.”