The requirement that our citizens — if they are artistes or students and now reporters and media-persons Â– need an NOC before being allowed to travel abroad is a gross infringement of civil liberties. Where the justification for such a draconian and inappropriate measure comes from is obscure. The matter surfaced on February 23 with Interior Minister Rehman Malik announcing the move in parliament during a law and order debate. Initially it was to apply to students and artistes — presumably performers who carry the flag for us aboard — but after an inter-ministerial meeting its scope was broadened out to journalists and media persons more generally. Further detail is added with the report that as of March 13 everybody travelling to India is going to need an NOC. The background of all foreigners and foreign companies operating here is also to be investigated.
Mr Malik, a man whose acquaintance with transparency is tangential at best, said that in future our intelligence agencies would vet the background of scholarship awarding countries to make sure that they are not playing some cunning trick on us by subverting those so awarded. Presumably the thousands of men and women who have benefitted from Fulbright scholarships in the US and the Chevening scholarships in the UK are now seen as a potential threat. And what of our artists and artistes — painters, writers, actors, actresses? Are they really such a threat to national security that they have to be scrutinised minutely by our security services before they are allowed to set foot on foreign soil? Is the government so afraid of what journalists and media representatives might say or do when abroad that it seeks to limit their going in the first place? This is the action of a police state, of a state that seeks to stifle free expression and limit the movements of its people for no other reason that they might say things about an unpopular government that are either embarrassing or simply the plain honest truth. Mr Malik made vague reference to Â‘conspiracies’ being fostered abroad, but what this latest foot-in-mouth moment for this blindingly incompetent government demonstrates is that there exists a ‘Zia mentality’ at its heart that has zero connection with democracy and an umbilical connection with totalitarianism. Unfortunate as this may be there is probably little chance of anything being any different under any other dispensation. The people of Pakistan are not broken beyond fixing, but their politicians are quite another matter.
Source: The News