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Gul Bukhari Educates Twitter on the Politics of Dissent

Gul Bukhari Educates Twitter on the Politics of Dissent


Dissent is patriotic. It is a phrase that has become synonymous with all the resistance movements such as the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, which demands better of the establishment. It has also come to denote the work of journalists who continue to work under state sponsored crackdowns on media, which limits the nature of material available to the public to objectively ascertain the impacts of government and military policies alike.

Where the journalists are marred by limitations on mainstream media, they take to Twitter to express their dissent.

Of course, this comes at the cost of personal and professional setbacks, something journalist Gul Bukhari had to learn the hard way. She was reportedly abducted in June this year and released a few hours later in Lahore. A colleague of hers noted that that the alleged kidnappers were both in army attire as well as plain clothes. For anyone vaguely familiar with the holy stature of the military in Pakistan, this assertion earned Bukhari a series of abuses from protectors of the faith and defenders of the military.

Dissent on Twitter also takes the ugly shape of activating patriotic vigilantes, which is a situation Gul Bukhari has found herself at the center of, yet again.

Bukhari in a tweet on Sept 20th claimed that there is a threatening WhatsApp campaign underway, which seeks to label her as unpatriotic for her criticism of the state.

However, does this warrant defamatory campaigns of potentially onerous nature? Absolutely not. Moreover, has Bukhari said anything that no matter our party allegiance, can be backed with some logic or an alternate frame of reference than that of everyday PTI supporters?

We don’t have the original WhatsApp video, but this gentleman claims it has the following content.

The fact that dissent becomes problematic at the convenience of different governments is also an interesting point to note here. If constructively criticizing policies (such as the dam fund) and state institutions are akin to treason, then our Prime Minister Imran Khan can certainly be said to have won the election on the basis of treason. No one did or surprisingly still does unchecked criticism of the civil government better than Khan did on more than one instance of energetic ‘josh-e-khitabat’.

So it is valid an assertion that patriotism like ‘flavor of the month’ currently requires unabated support for Imran Khan. 

This includes accepting without critical reflection the policies adopted by the current government, such as the Dam Fund, which is basically a scheme to crowdsource funds for a massive project. Gul Bukhari, however, doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Despite the reportedly defamatory WhatsApp campaign, Bukhari wrote a thought-provoking piece just a day ago, detailing the politics of the dam fund. The piece published in The Print, particularly questions the holy grail status of the dam fund and why it is completely safe from criticism by the public. That too, the very same public who is being asked to source the funds in the first place. We understand patriotism might fog the need to ask important questions. But if someone else is doing that for us, are Pakistanis really so weak that terrorizing those who ask questions is the only way to show our love for the country?

Dissent is patriotic. Question is exactly how dissentious can one get before their very existence is subject to obliteration in Pakistan.





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