Censors at work? | Pakistan Today

Censors at work?

  • Why was Shuja Nawaz stopped from launching his book

The book launch functions of Washington-based Shuja Nawaz’s latest book, The Battle for Pakistan, were cancelled after the author was told to do so. The reason for this censorship was not easily understood, for Shuja Nawaz has hitherto enjoyed an impeccable reputation as one who has strongly supported the Pakistani position in the USA, where he is based, being a Distinguished Fellow of the South Asia Centre at the Atlantic Council. His previous books have been praised, including his two works on the Pakistan Army, Crossed Swords and The Wars Within. There is some speculation that the book contains material uncomplimentary to the present government, but there is none of the certainty of an official statement.

The tendency, under the present setup, of ever-new forms of censorship, is now reaching out to Pakistanis whose patriotism was previously never in doubt. The thin skin of the present government, its fighting shadows, and its tilting at windmills, mean that opening one’s mouth becomes more difficult than ever, and criticism of the government becomes anathema.

It is perhaps paradoxical that the sale and distribution of the book have not been forbidden, which indicates that it does not contain any material which would justify a prohibition in court. The way the book launches, which were originally scheduled for Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, have been cancelled raise the unwelcome prospect of interference with distribution (as was done with that of a newspaper) in the past. It is true that freedom of speech does not mean license to make wild allegations, but it is equally true that any abuse of that freedom can only be so declared by a properly constituted court of law, and not according to the fiat of some junior official. As there is no legal method for any censorship unless a crime has been committed, it seems that an over-enthusiastic adviser has given some really bad advice. It is to be hoped that none of the strong-arm tactics used for newspapers are tried on the retailers of this book, especially where no cause of disagreement has been expressed.