One of the favourite pastimes in Pakistan seems to be moral policing. We really don’t believe in the principle of ‘live and let live’. No, we have to interfere in others’ lives, we have to comment on others’ life choices, we have to judge everyone around us and we have to somehow make life difficult for others.
Just recently, we saw social media outrage regarding a photoshoot that was deemed ‘obscene’ by senior journalist Ansar Abbasi. Mr Abbasi somehow keeps finding everything ‘obscene’ under the sun, be it a video, an advertisement, a YouTube show, a photoshoot — you name it and Mr Abbasi has seen it. Mr Abbasi tweeted to Deputy Commissioner (DC) Islamabad that the couple must be arrested as they “displayed extreme obscenity in public in the federal capital”. As if on cue, DC Islamabad asked people to share any information they had about the couple and/or photoshoot. Both of them did not think for a second how they could be endangering the lives of the young girl and boy in the pictures. We live in a society that believes in mob justice. But our senior journalists and officials really don’t care, it seems.
The Islamabad police booked the couple for an indecent photoshoot under Section 294 of the PPC, which makes “engaging in obscene acts, or singing, reciting or uttering obscene songs, ballads or words, in or near any public place, to the annoyance of others, an offense punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both”. The law is so vague that anything can be deemed obscene as there is no clear definition of the word in PPC. And this is why it was used against the kids in the photoshoot.
At around 5:30am on Tuesday (August 24), 10 police officers — one SHO, one ASI, and eight constables — reportedly arrived at the house of the boy, Zulfi, in Lahore to arrest him. They had come to arrest him from Islamabad. The boy’s lawyers got a protective bail from a court so he could not be arrested. But look at the priorities of our state that 10 police officials were sent to Lahore to arrest someone for a photoshoot. A photoshoot!!! Let that sink in. Zulfi is not a terrorist, not a murderer, not a rapist, not a child abuser, but an activist. And the police wanted to arrest him for a photoshoot. We must thank the Islamabad Police for making us feel so safe.
A woman was assaulted by hundreds of men at Minar-e-Pakistan and the police did not come to help her despite calls, another woman was forcibly kissed by a man while sitting in a rickshaw but nobody helped her, but one photoshoot and one tweet by a vigilante journalist and our police can swiftly be seen in action.
We hope that our officials would stop moral policing and let people express themselves however they want. There is already so much intolerance around us. Do not make this society more suffocating than it already is.