With journalists being abducted in broad daylight, textbooks being censored at an alarming rate, and a disturbing trend of civil rights violations being observed, one is driven to wonder if somehow the all-watching Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984 is beginning to manifest himself in Pakistan.
The chilling character – perhaps more accurately described as a symbol – was used by Orwell to show the decaying world in 1984. Every citizen is constantly under watch, with the slogan “Big Brother is watching you” being presented as a warning to all citizens: follow the law, because we have our eyes on you always. Even thinking of committing a crime is viewed as a crime in and of itself. History is constantly rewritten based on the whims and desires of the ruling party, headed by Big Brother. Any attempt to present any variation or different interpretation of history, or even consider such an attempt, is dealt with by the all-watching Big Brother. The Party censors whatever it wishes to be erased. A point comes wherein the protagonist begins to wonder if 2+2=5 if Big Brother decides it to be so, since no one would be willing to question him. To top it off, the tragic irony lies in the fact that the people all love and adore Big Brother and view his decrees as actions necessary for the protection and safety of their society.
Pakistan is certainly far away from such a dystopian world. However, it cannot be denied that in recent weeks, it appears as if Pakistan is slowly edging towards a point wherein it will have its very own Big Brother.
The kidnapping of Matiullah Jan allegedly by state-sponsored individuals is a stunning example of the roots of Big Brother appearing in Pakistani society. Any narrative contrary to mainstream thought is considered harmful and treasonous with those defending such narratives being condemned as “anti-Pakistan” and “RAW-sponsored”.
The banning of 100 textbooks is another chillingly similar example of Orwell’s world bleeding into Pakistan. The reasons given are similar to those given by dictators throughout history: “national security”, “anti-state” and “blasphemous”. The world of 1984 shows the restriction of facts, with entire people and personalities being created and erased as desired by Big Brother.
The one thing that Big Brother had that made him unimpeachable and untouchable was the love the people had for him. No one would speak up against the Party simply because everybody had been driven to believe that Big Brother was doing everything he did for the good of the people.
Indeed, this can be observed in Pakistan as well wherein citizens often demonstrate blind love and loyalty for their institutions and politicians. Many people even celebrated the kidnapping of Jan and the censorship of the books. But this is not always the case.
At the kidnapping of Matiullah Jan, there was a massive outcry so loud that the news reached international platforms; powerful politicians spoke out, and Jan was released within the day.
Therein lies the power that Pakistan has that wasn’t present in 1984. The people in Pakistan have not yet been brainwashed to the extent that they exhibit blind loyalty to the state. If they see something wrong, they often do speak up about it.
This voice, unfortunately, is being snuffed by manifestations of Big Brother. Critical thinking and opposition to censorship is slowly being vilified and demonized, but the process is not yet complete.
There is hope, but one wonders how long it will remain until Big Brother stamps it out.
Featured picture credits: Adina Azmat @adinacoladas