This blog was first published in Dawn.


The internet was taken by storm when nude pictures of over a 100 celebrities were leaked and published on the internet. They are everywhere. Twitter is abuzz with  comments ranging from “don’t take pictures if you don’t want them to be public” to “how sharing or looking at the images is partaking in abuse”. Somewhere in between are conversations about intimacy in the world of social media, leaks and hacking.  Initial reports suggested that hackers targeted the iCloud accounts of the high-profile celebrities, there have been speculations about bugs that may be involved in making the hacking easier. What’s worth noting is that some of the leak pictures had long been deleted, so how were they being accessed again?


That brings us the question, how long is our data allowed to live on the internet before it is buried deep into the cyberspace, possibly too hard to find? are cloud services doing enough to protect user data? can we truly remove data from our devices in its entirety and without a trace? Privacy buffs will tell you, the only way to remove data from a hard drive, SD card, USB or a phone is to destroy it. There are programs like ‘eraser’ that allow one to hard delete data, but as technology allows for more intensive intrusion there’s fear that your intimate moments if caught on camera may continue to live on. So then, if you do not want intimate visuals to ever be made public, you simply stop taking them? That approach, although advises caution, is deeply problematic, as it inherently justifies abuse and victim blaming. If she/he did not want people to look at her private photos why did she/have to take them?  It’s also a heavy handed snub that tells us that expecting privacy in the world of internet is a long dead phenomena. Blaming the internet or the victim for violation of privacy, is an ill informed and condescending approach that justifies and perpetuates abuse.

It perpetuates abuse as it overlooks consent. You are looking at visuals that were intended to be shared privately, the individual photographed had consented to taking these pictures and sharing them with another. The fact that these pictures exists, in no way makes them okay for public sharing, the absence of consent makes the sharing and viewing of these pictures an abuse. Justifying the act in itself or the leak by blaming the victim makes a textbook case for rape culture, whereby you ought to be careful if you did not intend to be abused or raped.

In a world where 24 hour CCTV cameras are our reality, it is willful delusion to blame individuals for not being “careful” enough. Victim blaming has not, will not and has never been a solution. Caution is necessary, learning about one’s digital security even more so but this incidence says more about a collective greed for snooping into people’s private lives than anything else. This is the same phenomena that makes revenge porn, sneaky paparazzi shoots and leaked conversations a massive business model. It sells, it generates hits and it also brings all the creeps out of the woods. Since those sharing the pictures, insist it is naive to expect privacy that anything put up on the internet must always remain forever and public, it provides for the public opportunity to identify and publicly shame individuals who prey on one’s privacy, partake and perpetuate abuse. After all, if you didn’t want your fetishes made public, why did you prey on others?


This is the second of a two-part article on rape culture, how it exists in Pakistan, and how it can be dismantled.

In the first part of this article, we explained rape culture, and discussed it within a Pakistani context. One of the biggest hurdles for gender equity in Pakistan is that anti-women practices, customs, and norms are defended under the blanket statement, “This is our culture and tradition, and it has always been this way.”

Yes, Pakistani society is traditional. But it is not a tradition to be proud of. It is a tradition of patriarchy that oppresses and exploits women. For that reason alone, rape culture needs to be recognized as a real threat and dismantled.  The process of dismantling rape culture is difficult, because rape culture is complex and rooted in the sort of traditions and cultural norms that would need decades to change. But that change can only happen if we begin now.

To trace the roots of rape culture is well-nigh impossible. Perhaps, we could posit that rape culture has existed as long as the patriarchy has existed. For it is the patriarchy, with its emphasis on the inferiority of women, that plants the seeds of gender discrimination in society, which in turn leads to the development of misogynist attitudes. But the tree of patriarchy is one that reaches far above the clouds, with branches stretching out to all corners of the world. Consequently, one of the patriarchy’s most favoured seedlings is sexism, which is quite common in Pakistan. Simply put, sexism is discrimination against men or women on the basis of their sex. This translates into speech, actions, and attitudes that are almost contemptuous of women, who are perceived to be weak, inferior, and subject to a wide range of fallacious and negative stereotypes. Critics may argue that sexist language, jokes, and specifically rape jokes do no harm, but studies have also proved that sexist, gender-discriminatory language directly affect social attitudes towards women. Even Benazir Bhutto felt the need to highlight sexist attitudes and language when addressing that Beijing conference thing, where she said, “Often men, in anger and frustration, indulge in the uncivilized behaviour of rude and vulgar language against women. Unfortunately, women at times also use vulgar language to denigrate another woman. So we have to work together to change not only the attitudes of men but the attitudes of men and women.”

Sexism in actions and deeds translates to gender-specific discrimination in terms of employment, career opportunities, the wage gap, and it doesn’t end there. When sexist attitudes about the inferior state of the female prevail, they translate into acts of violence against women, discrimination against the LGBT community and sex workers, the sexual objectification of women in mass media, not to mention the legal ramifications of a social structure where women are discriminated against and thus, have little hope of social justice through legal means. Sexism therefore, is not just harmless jokes or loose talk, but an institutionalized form of denying women access and rights. As for the relationship of sexism to rape culture, it isn’t difficult to comprehend how sexist attitudes also encompass attitudes and behaviors towards rape. To dismantle rape culture therefore, we need to recognize the harmful effects of sexist attitudes, actions, and speech, and work towards eradicating such occurrences from social norms. With the absence of discriminatory words and acts, there will be a gradual shift towards a more egalitarian society that will not be dismissive of women’s issues, nor encourage the silence of suffering women since egalitarianism is not mutually inclusive to concepts of honour and ownership of women.

Gender on its own is one of the more harmful contributing factors towards rape culture. There is a general confusion regarding gender; if you tell a layperson that gender is a social construct, they will fire back, “Then how are babies born if gender isn’t real?” The difference is quite simple. Sex is biologically determined, and therefore, reproduction- a biological occurrence- is dependent on the sex of a human. Gender is a social construct; in a way, gender is taught, not an inevitable fact like a person’s sex. This results in gender roles, which is a set of rigid, socially prescribed (and approved) rules regarding the correct social behaviors and attitudes. According to the CIPE Media Guide by Uks Research Center, “This learned behavior is what makes up gender identity and determines gender roles and responsibilities. These gender roles vary greatly from one culture to another and even from one social, political, or economical group to another within the same culture.” By this logic, it is understandable that more egalitarian cultures- not necessarily Western- would not engage in negative social conditioning but rather, allow children to grow up with little restrictions on the basis of sex. Unfortunately in Pakistan, this is not the case.

The construction of gender under Pakistani patriarchy socially condition the girl-child to be passive, submissive, and at the mercy of the world unless she has a husband, father, brother, or male relative to “take care” of her. But Pakistani patriarchy takes it one step further with the imposition of honour on the female. While it is common in many patriarchal cultures to put the burden of family honour- in this case, the patriarch of the family being the embodiment of the family- on the females of the family, but in Pakistan, the punishment for deviation from the norm is honour-killing. In other tribal customs, women are exchanged like property, used to settle feuds and disputes, because a woman has no value or agency as a person. Since women are socially conditioned to be submissive and assume they are helpless in their situation, gender role plays a large part in the subjugation of women.

Moreover, gender role is the reason there is a culture of impunity in terms of sexual violence and violence against women. (VAW) While women are conditioned to be meek, submissive, etc. the male child is conditioned to be the exact opposite. The idea of masculinity stems from gender socialization, and demands that men be strong, powerful, controlling, and that ‘their’ women should conform to society’s idea of honourable women because the more “honourable” a woman is, the more respect her ‘male owner’ is granted. Therefore, the male has a right to punish and control his women as he sees fit in order to assert his masculinity and maintain his respect in society, and commit acts of emotional, psychological, and physical violence upon women with impunity.

In layperson’s perspective, these acts are blamed on the poverty myth, i.e. such mistreatment of women is attributed to low financial status, and consequent lack of access to educational opportunities resulting in a lack of ‘enlightenment.’ We shall not waste time discussing the fallacy of the poverty myth, as landmark cases such as the Saima Waheed case or the case of Veena Hayat’s gang-rape are testament to the inclusion of upper-class women in acts of violence. Indeed, as Shahla Haeri points out in “Resilience and Post-Traumatic Recovery in Cultural and Political Context: Two Pakistani Women’s Strategies for Survival,” “The gang rape of Veena, a woman of landed aristocracy and close friend of Benazir Bhutto and her husband, shattered the belief that only poor and peasant women get raped and that women of the elite are safe. In the words of an observer, “The Veena Hayat case had literally come to knock at the very gates of power.” Thus, recognizing the prevalence of violence in all its forms against women across social class and financial class is imperative, and the first step to recognizing the damage done to both men and women due to gender. For gender as a construct, while disproportionately advantaging men, also harms their interests and conditions them into a life of violence.

From this standpoint, the logical conclusion is a neutralization of gender. Given the cultural context of Pakistan, calling for gender abolishment is to cry for the moon. Rather, what is required is working towards the neutralization of gender socialization. This is achievable by decreasing the limitations on the girl-child as well as the male child; where young girls should not be cautioned against being ambitious, or discouraged from “unfeminine” qualities, which can range from being boisterous or being untidy. Similarly, the male child should be included in home activities, rather than growing up in a household where he learns of the sexual division of labour. Neutralizing gender is as simple as refraining from differentiating between “girl toys and boy toys” or “girl clothes and boy clothes” and encouraging children to interact together, rather than segregating them on the basis of gender. It is not an easy process; cultural constraints mean that it would take several generations before there are signs of change and progress. But without the first step being taken, or without debate beginning on the subject altogether, nothing will change. It will simply be a matter of “all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again,” and that statement is the embodiment of rape culture; the acceptance of rape as an inevitable fact of life simply for the crime of being born female.

The solution may be simple, but implementation and execution is a long, complicated process filled with hurdles of every kind at every step. But without the first step, without beginning a discourse on acknowledging the existence of rape culture, nothing can proceed. Until then, we can only shake our heads and sigh resignedly as our statements are met with incredulous replies such as “what are you talking about? A culture can’t rape anyone!” and the oppression of women will continue.

surveillance In Search of Utopia  

The author of this post spent a countless amount of time staring at the screen, contemplating a possible topic for a post, his mind wandering from Edward Snowden to Robin Williams to Krispy Kreme to Red Alert: Yuri’s Revenge. Having unsuccessfully decided on a topic, the author instead decided to pen his thoughts on why, as a nation, which rests of a precipice of political unrest bordering on a complete disintegration of the political and infrastructural fabric, has overlooked the issue of digital and cyber privacy.

Perhaps it is for the reasons stated above which is why as a nation, we feel that issues such as the classification of certain content as, “objectionable” and its subsequent blocking, are not issues worthy of much thought. The country hangs from a thread as political pundits are locked in a vicious battle of words and displays of strength, marching from one city to another, picking up supporters as a snowball rolling down a hill, as the whole country, starves for a semblance of effective leadership. However, we disagree. Presence on a social media platform, or for that matter, being active on the global internet forum automatically implies that an individual must have adequate security tools employed within their systems to ensure that their personal data is not compromised.

Every person who has access to the internet currently has two identities. Their physical identity and their cyber profile which is a series of numbers and now with the advent of social media, a real-life profile. These identities must be protected by both security tools and government legislation to prevent agencies within the Executive fold from abusing the existing infrastructure to conduct surveillance activities. It is not just surveillance that is the cause of concern, but the perspective with which individuals perceive digital security. With the increased presence of social media and online commerce, identities of individuals are at constant risk of theft. Within United States of America itself, identity theft caused $24bn in losses in 2013 alone. Kickstarter, the global fundraising website for entrepreneurial startups was hacked with usernames, mailing addresses, contact details and other sensitive information being obtained by a third party. Kickstarter maintained that credit card information was left untouched which implies that the hackers may have obtained information to users credit card information, but chose not to access it. Tesco, the British multinational retail chain, was forced to suspend more than 2000 customer accounts of its online portal after hackers posted user data online. Snapchat, the picture sharing application suffered a massive security lapse when a website by the name of posted usernames and contact details of over 4.6m users in a bid to spread awareness regarding Snapchat’s evidently weak security infrastructure.

These few examples speak volumes on how lax perspectives towards security and the democratically protected rights towards access to content is being exploited. Coming back towards the not so democratic state of Pakistan, internet activists are neck deep in trying to spread awareness pertaining to how their fundamental human rights are being infringed upon. The fact of the matter remains that the general populace is nonplussed about these rights being denied to them. After all, in the face of the unavailability of the basic amenities of life such as electricity, security and health, questions on whether their activities on Facebook is being catalogued is the most probably the last in the hierarchy of concerns an ordinary Pakistani may have. However, agreed that yes, perhaps given the vast plethora of problems which an ordinary citizen faces, cyber privacy must be given adequate attention. The reason for that is very simple: Pakistan does not have any legislative tools in place for citizen privacy and protection of their activities online. Moreover, with the passage of the Protection of Pakistan Act where any citizen is now being perceived as guilty until proven innocent (a gross violation of the rules of natural justice) and with wide ranging powers being conferred to the law enforcement personnel, a citizen’s online activity may be presented to the Court as evidence substantiating the State’s case.

Why this is startling is simply due to the reason that ordinary citizens feel that their activity online is sacred and without a person’s login details, no person can access sensitive information. However, as was witnessed during the Arab Spring, citizens of different states were convicted simply due to their activity on the social media sphere. What is of utmost important is not the wide ranging tools that a citizen can employ, but our attitudes towards cyber security and the ease with which the Executive is exploiting a citizen’s lax behaviour towards protecting their activities online, a gaping chasm which the Executive is enjoying widening.

I am reminded heavily of the term, “being completely off the grid”. I cannot ignore the overwhelming need to perhaps disable all my social media profiles and have no cyber footprint at all. Perhaps that is the only remedy available to me to protect myself on the web. But alas! Even deactivating my profile on Facebook or my Twitter handle or my Instagram feed is not guaranteed to erase my presence. Under Facebook’s terms and conditions, once i upload data onto their servers, I relinquish my rights of that particular content; It rightfully belongs to Facebook as soon as I click, “Upload.” Once I delete my profile, that content will remain available on Facebook’s servers. Though users to Facebook will not have access to that information, but perhaps Facebook will make that content available to any third party if requested.

It is imperative to change not just the existing data usage policies but our beliefs and our perceptions towards internet security. In the face of political instability and wide disregard of essential freedoms, it is time we take back the internet, a forum which was engineered around the core concept of being a user-governed platform, not a tool for multinational corporations and states to spy. What does indeed scare me, perhaps even more than the security shortcomings of the web, is the relative ease with which the government exploits the fundamental right to privacy. If the government does indeed carry out such blatant violations of the Constitution with such ease, how soon is it that other such violations are carried out by the Government, and the populace remains silent? That day, I fear, may be right around the corner.

Privacy is a core concern in a world where social media and mobile phone apps are the main focus for people. Sadly, most people do not realize the fact that the only privacy social media or apps leave them with is either non-existent or a miniscule amount. This is especially true for apps that target teenagers and young people specifically, such as Snapchat, Whisper, Kik Messenger, Instagram, etc. The lack of privacy and security becomes more dangerous when it concerns applications popular amongst the youth.

Take Snapchat for example. The app is marketed as a secure app for sharing self-destructing images with friends; you set a time limit for the app, ranging from 2-10 seconds, at which point it disappears and “self-destructs,” Mission Impossible style. Sounds too good to be true, right? And it is too good to be true. The reality is that the app was insecure to the point that it was hacked in a data breach in the beginning of 2014.

Over 4.5 million usernames and numbers were leaked by white hats or ethical hackers, whose goal was “to raise the public awareness around the issue, and also put public pressure on Snapchat to get this exploit fixed,” and pointed out that “Security and privacy should not be a secondary goal. Security matters as much as user experience does.” Not that Snapchat didn’t pay the price for unethical practices; in May 2014, it settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges regarding the Snapchat guarantee to customers in terms of privacy and security. The basis for the case is quite alarming; not only was Snapchat collecting usernames and numbers without notification or consent, but they also promised privacy despite the presence and usage of third party apps that can be used to save the supposedly self-destructive images. And we do mean “supposedly” self-destructive; recent claims by forensics experts revealed that the photos are actually saved on your phone, and can be retrieved if needed. And this is the lengthier process; anyone can take a picture with a camera or camera-phone of a Snapchat picture on their mobile screen; unlike the notification you receive if someone has taken a screenshot of your Snapchat image, this act has no notification (obviously!) and you may never know who is collecting your pictures.

Similar problems plague the “secret-sharing” app Whisper; marketed as an app where people can share their secrets anonymously and find support, but one man used it to lure a 12-year-old girl into a hotel and raped her. A similar situation occurred with Kik Messenger, a texting app that allows users to send pictures and browse online while texting. Since you can share your Kik username with anyone, it is easy to befriend strangers and that’s a definite privacy and security risk, as seen in a recent case where a teen was making child pornography and blackmailing minors into sexual acts through the app.

So what, many would say, unconcerned by a mobile phone app collecting their name and cellphone numbers, or “a few” cases where the app has been misused by predators. So plenty, in a post-Snowden world; if someone is collecting your name and number in a database without your consent, it is a matter of your privacy being violated, and this is a concern that people do not take seriously. It’s a non-consensual violation, and consent is the key word here. No one should have any right to do anything to you, whether it is physical harm, abuse, or surveillance, without your explicit consent. The fact that people do not understand the significance of such violations or even see them as violations, is a victory for those that surveil, collect data, spy, and keep track of our entire lives. This complacency leads to everything conspiracy theorists would warn us against; we are passively participating in the violation of our civil rights. We at Bolo Bhi say, no more.

Any web or mobile phone app that promises security and privacy is lying. There is no such thing as a private, secure app. There are various loopholes that allow apps to exploit users and collect personal information. There are two options to proceed with; boycott using the apps altogether, or use with caution. Since the corporations have succeeded in their capitalist agenda to enslave people through addictions to social media, a mass boycott of such apps is highly unlikely. So how do you use such apps with caution? Don’t share anything you don’t want people to know about. Whether it is gossip about a mutual friend, admission of activities that may be viewed as immoral, any kind of secret, images you don’t want made public, images of a personal nature, in short, anything that is personal and private, does not belong on social media or mobile phone apps.

If you have children or minors using mobile phone apps and social media, ensure that you monitor their activity and more importantly, engage with them on the dangers of the internet. Rather than adopting the typical Pakistani parent/adult approach of bullying and “do as I say because I am older!” build a relationship on trust, so that children and minors know that whatever you say, truly is for their own good. Explain to them how they are at risk with their activities, and how they can protect themselves online. Keep track of who they are friends with online and through apps, not to pry into their private conversations with friends, but to make sure that they are not befriending strangers or anyone that you do not know.

Above all, be aware of security and privacy concerns related to such apps, and remain vigilant about future apps and websites as well. Nothing will ever be as private and secure as marketed, and we are responsible for ensuring that we remain unexploited, and our privacy remains just that; private.

Social media now forms an integral part of our life. We trust our intimate secrets to a faceless server and expect that our content, be it pictures, text, or anything else will be protected by the strictest privacy firewalls. We expect that the individual for whom the content is intended, the “audience”, will only be the people we choose to share information with, and no other person or party will be able to view that content. However, the recent Snowden revelations only reaffirmed that our content is far from secure. There had been considerable criticism that Facebook, entrusted with the data of millions of individuals around the globe, was selling user data to advertising companies to make targeted advertising campaigns. Our lives were and continue to be documented, behavioral patterns decoded and other such information being deduced from our online activity. Mark Zuckerburg himself stated in an interview with TechCrunch founder, Michael Arrington, “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.” The social norm being that privacy is now an outdated concept.

The above notion is debatable as Edward Snowden unleashed a barrage of information which defeated the aforementioned statement regarding privacy. Though the NSA remains the main culprit, have we ever cast the light of the interrogation lamp onto an organization which allows the NSA access to data, organized, efficient, and ripe for spying? A quick reading of the Facebook Data Use Policy confirmed my worst fears. Not only is our content accessible to the organization and stored, but the information we would ordinarily choose not to give out is ‘received’ by the social media giant. The Data Use Policy (which can be accessed here) clearly states:

When you post things like photos or videos on Facebook, we may receive additional related data (or metadata), such as the time, date, and place you took the photo or video.”

Being a law student, I must applaud the apparent ambiguity and the clever draftsmanship of the above statement. The condition does not say with absolute certainty that Facebook will receive the information and that it will be stored. Just that it MAY receive background information pertaining to the content I upload. Moreover, Facebook does not concede that the information that it does receive will be stored and used for an advertising stream, tailored to your activity on the social platform. But for now, I feel a bit at peace knowing that extremely personal information such as my location or my electronic devices is still in my control.

Oh wait.

“We receive data from or about the computer, mobile phone, or other devices you use to install Facebook apps or to access Facebook, including when multiple users log in from the same device. This may include network and communication information, such as your IP address or mobile phone number, and other information about things like your internet service, operating system, location, the type (including identifiers) of the device or browser you use, or the pages you visit. For example, we may get your GPS or other location information so we can tell you if any of your friends are nearby, or we could request device information to improve how our apps work on your device.”

Before I comment on the apparent breach of privacy which this policy entails, I would like to convey my gratitude to Facebook. Thank you for being clear on one aspect: Facebook does indeed collect information, store it and extends the same information to advertisers and vendors to advertise products and services. Facebook has now become a massive catalogue of identities, but a collection of whole individuals whose lives are on social media. This begs the question as to why Facebook must collect this information. By using our location, time, date and other intrinsic information attached to any content that we upload onto the social media platform, we are unknowingly conceding to information that we may not feel comfortable in knowing that we are providing. Perhaps we must read the Terms and Conditions of Facebook before we accept them blindly to succumb to the pressure of having a presence on social media.

It is imperative to note that Facebook receives information every time someone logs onto their profile, the device from which they log in, their IP address and if their device has GPS enabled, their location. But the GPS location is not as important as a person’s exact location can be triangulated by using the IP address from which a person is on Facebook. The social media giant brazenly mentions that through this information, they can tell you if any of my friends are nearby and other information which they’ve categorized as necessary for “the general improvement of Facebook”.

The one thing which caught my eye was the manner in which third parties have the capability to view data. The Data Use Policy clearly states that they sometimes receive information from third party organizations and advertising partners. Essentially, what this implies is that if I were to click on a Facebook ad which lead me to a different website advertising a certain product or service, the data pertaining to me clicking that ad includes, but is not restricted to time and date of the clicking, the location of the ad, and outlay. This information, once received by Facebook is then doctored to ensure maximum clicks.

Some may argue that Facebook is well within their rights to advertise products and/or services depending upon our search history. After all, they are not a charitable organization providing a service. They are in this business to make themselves self-sustaining and to reap profits and the only manner in which they can do that is by leasing out space on their servers to advertisers. However, I personally would feel uncomfortable knowing that every keyword I’ve ever searched with is documented and used to advertise products and/or services. I do not feel comfortable knowing that a nameless and faceless individual within the scores of Facebook employees is aware that I have logged in on my Facebook and am currently reading a colleague’s status on his timeline. I do not feel comfortable with the knowledge that every time I click, “Login”, my IP address and my exact location is stored on the Facebook servers. Perhaps it was through this mechanism of storing IP addresses that individuals preaching anti-state propaganda was apprehended and persecuted in Egypt during the Arab Spring. Perhaps it is through the scores of information available on Facebook servers that the NSA can keep tabs on individuals and their activities online, as their activities on the web are a reflection of their day to day tasks.

The general populace is unaware of something which is completely black and white. I do not feel comfortable knowing that my content, my location and other increasingly personal information is free to be pursued by individuals to whom I have not given consent. Perhaps by agreeing to their terms and conditions and their Data Use Policy, I have conceded to that. However, it was only for the purpose of this article that I bothered to read Facebook’s policies and Community Safety Guidelines. How many other individuals have made the conscious effort to do so? The answer to that would be startlingly few. And that thought, that individuals around us are now being treated as numbers and as data in cyberspace is, quite frankly, scary.

A Guide to Gender-Neutral Language

Gender-inclusive language or gender-neutral language is written and spoken language that does not a) specify or indicate gender in any way and b) as a result of being ‘gender-neutral’, does not become sexist or exclusive to one gender.

Why does Gender-Neutral Language matter?

Language is constant evolving because that is how a language stays alive. Languages which do not adapt to culture and social change will eventually become extinct. And that is why gender-neutrality in language is so important; it is mutually inclusive to cultural and social values. As societies evolve, so must their language, because it is not just a means of communication, but also reflects the values and norms of the society we live in.

Furthermore, gender is incorrectly used in place of sex in verbal and written language, whereas sex is biological and denotes whether a human is male or female. Gender is a social construct that results from social conditioning and cultural norms regarding men and women. Moreover, we tend to think of gender in binaries, i.e. male and female, whereas gender is fluid and unconfined.

When we use non-inclusive language, we perpetuate offensive, misogynist stereotypes in our writing and speech. Whether in English or Urdu, every day we speak and write in ways that contribute to reinforcing an outdated mode of thinking that is a main source for gender inequality.

Using Gender-Neutral Language:

The rules of gender-neutral language are obviously not set in stone, but there are certain principles that can be followed to ensure inclusivity in language.

  1. Neutralize occupations/job titles:

Many jobs were historically associated with women, such as nurses, teachers, air-hostesses. Here are some suggestions in nuking gender from the equation altogether.

Male nurse/female nurse ———- Nurse

Male/female teacher ————- Teacher

Air-hostess/airhost ———– Flight attendant, cabin crew

Steward/stewardess ——— Flight attendant, cabin crew

Policeman/policewoman —— Police official

Sportsman/sportswoman ——  Athlete, sports person

Landlord/landlady———-  Owner/proprietor

Waitress/waiter ———-  Server

In some cases, it is acceptable to use a gender-specific occupational terms. This is relevant in writing about Pakistan, since there are parts of the country where culture dictates gender-segregation. In this case, it is important to specify female doctors or teachers, because failure to do so would result in a setback for women; imagine writing a proposal for a girls-school or women’s hospital in a tribal area, and failing to mention that the staff will be female. The school/hospital in question would possibly never become reality due to this lapse.

  1. Nuking the masculine pronouns:

A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun. In writing, we often use ‘he’ when referring to either gender. For example: “Any student found smoking on school property will find himself penalized with a fine.” There are a number of clever ways to bypass gender-specific pronouns.

Using they:

Rather than using a gendered pronoun, use ‘they’ instead. This should be used sparingly to avoid redundancy.

Converting to the plural form:

Consider this sentence instead;

“Students that are found smoking on school property will find themselves penalized.”

Use he/she:

When addressing a mixed audience, rather than using one pronoun, use ‘he or she’ instead.

“If any student is found smoking on school property, he or she will find themselves penalized.”

Removing gender from the equation:

Why use gender in the first place? Eliminate the pronoun from the sentence altogether.

“Students that are found smoking on school property will be penalized.”

  1. Avoiding Stereotypes:

Stereotypes exist in any language, but gender-specific stereotypes are dangerous because their usage supports social mindsets. Whether in Urdu or English, gender-specific stereotypes need to be avoided for ethical and professional writing.

Urdu phrases such as “haath mein mehendi laga kar bethi ho” (have you put henna on your hands?) or “chooriyan pehen rakhi hein” (you are wearing bangles) are two of the most commonly used insults. The first is hurled in the case of laziness or lack of willingness to do something. The second is similar, since the bangles South Asia is famous for are delicate glass, not to be worn when working for fear of breaking them. In both cases, the assumption is that the person is acting like a delicate woman who cannot do a single thing because she has henna on her hands. Simply put, a patriarchal society forces women into chadar aur chaar diwari (four walls and a black veil) and then uses that enforced captivity of women as insults.

Escaping gender-specific stereotypes in English are a tricky business. In Urdu, we are honest about our contempt for women; in English, we mask it with ease, as if it were English that is our mother tongue. Consider this example:

“Like a heartless paramour who wishes to make it clear that the fractures in the amour are not her fault. It’s you. It has always been you.”

The writer is talking about poor customer-service and while the comparison is amusing, the gender of this paramour is very specific. The writer is addressing the audience, not describing his own personal, heterosexual experience. So why is the language so exclusionary? Instead, the sentence can be revised to “his or her fault” or “their fault.” This example is actually an overlap of gender-specific pronouns and stereotypes, since the writer is adopting the stereotype of a temptress female that breaks hearts cruelly with no regards to the sad feelings of oppressed men.

Describing men as “hysterical females” or “emotional females” is another common slip-up for the non-gender-savvy writer. Gendered attributes such as physical strength indicating masculinity, or phrases like “reduced to the point of tears like a little girl” fall under the gender-specific stereotypes as well. Small gaffes cannot be referred to as ‘having a blond moment.’ No one thinks yellow-haired men when using this phrase, and everyone thinks of a stupid, yellow-haired woman. If your written work needs to use a woman as an example of weakness or ineptitude, or if you need to call someone a woman to challenge their masculinity, you’re doing it wrong.

  1. Generic Usage of Man:

Man used to be a generic term referring to people/humanity in general. As society evolves, so does language, and exclusionary language belongs to the past, not the present in which we struggle for a more egalitarian future. Women are part of the human race, as are men, and both need to be referred to collectively when discussing humanity. Whether it is one word, or a phrase, the generic man has outlived its time and has to be replaced by exclusionary terminology.

Generic Terms

Gender-Neutral Terms


Humankind, humanity.

Man (Usage: Throughout the ages, man has…)

People, humanity


Artificial, synthetic, manufactured

The common man

The  common person


Layperson, lay

The best man for the job

The best person for the job

Man’s achievements

Humanity’s achievements, human achievements

Primitive man

Primitive people, primitive humans


Workforce, labour, personnel, staff

Fellow countryman/countrymen

Comrades, compatriots


  1. Sexist language:

Separate from gender-specific stereotypes, sexist language includes  an unnecessary focus on female attributes, characteristics, or personal information. For example, describing female students as naïve or innocent, whereas male students are just “young” or “teenagers” is a definite gender bias. Describing an outspoken woman as “spunky” may seem harmless, but it is a word associated primarily with women. Chances are you cannot remember a single point in your life when you called a man spunky (Although you’ve probably never used the word in your entire life). Attributing beauty to powerful women to make them seem less threatening (Because nothing is more frightening to the patriarchy or a misogynist than a woman exercising her own agency) is again, indulgent gender bias; a powerful woman does not need to be beautiful or elegant or any other traditionally feminine quality, just like Wonder Woman can wear less skimpy clothes and still be a powerful super-heroine.

Test Your Gender-Savvy Skills:

Remaining gender-neutral is a tricky task, but luckily, there are a number of online quizzes that test your skills at concealing your inherent misogyny in your writing.

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Quiz 3

Further Reading:

The Guardian ran an excellent article on the importance of gender-neutral language.

APA has a comprehensive guide on avoiding sexist language.

Purdue Owl has a brief explanation on gender-inclusive language.

Here’s an article explaining gender-neutral titles and form of address.

For the disbeliever or MRA (Male Rights Activist, more commonly known as the anti-feminist) this article offers a brief history of the generic usage of masculine language.

The University of North Carolina offers an online guide to masculine pronouns and gendered language.

UNESCO has a comprehensive, essential list on gender-neutral language.

 Pakistan Feminist Watch wrote an excellent deconstruction of a number of tweets containing sexist jokes.


James Madison, an American statesman, a political theorist and fourth President of the United States of America from 1809 to 1817 once stated:

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what is will be tomorrow.”

The above situation, a chasm in the realm of political theory and legal operation, is what the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has fallen in. An average person no longer knows what the law entails as due to the rapid fusion of religion, legal precedence, constitutional reform and personal whims of politicians. As a law student, I alongside dozens of budding politicians and lawyers were taught one essential rule which formed the bedrock of Constitutional Law: The Executive Arm of the State must be prevented from exercising an arbitrary use of power and it is the responsibility of the Judiciary and the State Legislature to deem any exercise of power as ultra vires or “outside” the scope of power granted to them by the Constitution of the State. This elemental principle is inviolable and is the basis upon which the State Legislature enacts legislation.

Agreed that yes, there is a constitutional overlap within the Legislature as the Executive is formed from within the Legislature itself. However, to prevent this overlap from overpowering the sanctity of the Constitution is where the Judiciary steps in. If in any case, an Act of Parliament is found to be against the spirit of the Constitution, the Judiciary can declare the Act as null and void, as seen in the case of the Contempt of Court Act of 2012 where the Supreme Court of Pakistan found the provisions of the Act in conflict with Article 63 (1)(g).

As a citizen of this great state, a holder of a green passport, a victim of multiple “random screenings” at foreign airports and a completely new user of a 3G network, the extent to which the Executive or as we tend to lovingly refer to it as the “gurrment” exercises power in an arbitrary fashion no longer surprises me.

Every five years, a President is sworn in, swearing to uphold and protect the provisions of the Constitution, yet at the same time fail to address the manner in which the Executive exercises its power. The ban on the global video sharing website, YouTube, is now about to hit the two year mark, hundreds of other websites cannot be accessed due to “objectionable content” and at the same time, our search for any Act, any law which allows the State to breach on this freedom of expression and information came back empty.

The Inter Ministerial Committee on the Evaluation of Websites (Yes. We have such a Ministry. Evaluating websites is more important than addressing sectarian violence, infrastructural shortcomings and our economic nosedive) is reportedly the standing authority on blocking websites. It is prudent to mention that the IMCEW lacks any statutory foundation, meaning, it was formed without any legal consent by the State Legislature. However, it can be argued that the IMCEW was formed by the Federal Government which has the authority to do so. But the IMCEW has no legal backing, it cannot pass policies or directives, which in reality, does not manifest. The IMCEW has time and time again directed the PTA to block “blasphemous and pornographic content” which then passes on those to ISPs. The IMCEW is not a public authority as defined under Gadoon Textile Mills v Wapda therefore is not a creature of the law and thus ultimately has no authority to pass such directives. Can the role of the IMCEW and its activities be construed as ultra vires? If yes, that will unravel all the decisions of the IMCEW and the internet springs back to pre September 17, 2012, when YouTube was blocked and when the Government found renewed joy in blocking access to a number of websites.

The question remains: Do these activities, namely blocking websites, fall under the ambit of Section 19 of the Constitution which professes the need for the protection of free speech? Yet at the same time the Constitution also upholds the notion that acts may be undertaken to protect the glory of Islam and for public order. I am not questioning the validity of these constitutional clauses; it is the exercise of power, executed under the statutory authority under which they were constituted, which is under scrutiny here.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Reorganization Act 1996 does not grant any power to the PTA to filter the internet. If it does not, then any use of power in that context is illegal and unjustified.

It cannot be stressed that the Executive is taking advantage of the governmental overlap within the State Legislature. To give the reader another view into how the Executive is hesitant in respecting and upholding the sovereignty of Parliament, the National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution seeking the removal of the ban on YouTube on May 6. More than two months have passed since this resolution was passed, the Executive has yet to consider it.

This is the first of a two-part article on rape culture, how it exists in Pakistan, and how it can be dismantled

Once again, the country is wracked with anger and shame over the gang-rape and murder of a girl in Layyah. The incident occurred less than a month after the brutal public murder of Farzana Parveen. (See Bolo Bhi’s blog on the murder of Farzana Parveen here) This should not come as a shock considering the high rate of violence against women (VAW) in the country. What’s disturbing is the similarity between the case in Layyah, and that of a case in India, where two minor girls aged fourteen and fifteen were raped, and unable to face the “shame” of being rape survivors, decided to hang themselves from a tree. It is highly unlikely, though, that such an incident has never occurred before in Pakistan, considering that most crimes against women are not even reported, and women are urged to keep silent to protect “family honor.”

But we have nothing to worry about, of course. Because rape is something that happens accidentally, so sometimes it is wrong, and sometimes it is right. You see, boys will be boys at the end of the day, and if a girl accuses her ex-boyfriend of rape, should the boy be hanged for a little mistake? At least, that is what Indian Ministers have to say about rape. That it’s an accident that is sometimes right, and that it happens because “boys will be boys.” Following that line of thought, we could assume that perhaps, the four men who raped the Layyah victim ‘accidentally’ decided to gang-rape her. Perhaps in their panic over their “mistake”, they accidentally strangled the victim and didn’t realize they were killing her. Perhaps they panicked even more – being boys, after all- and then decided to make it look like a suicide.

It is not enough to simply outrage over individual incidents. We need to ask ourselves, why? Why does such a culture of impunity exist within our society? The statements of Indian ministers about rape may not be regarding Pakistan, but you do not have to look far to find such examples at home. So the question arises; why? Why do the statistics grow by the year, instead of decreasing? Why are laws to protect women ineffective or not implemented at all? Why are people so apathetic to crimes against women until one case out of hundreds is pounced upon and highlighted by mass media?

Rape culture. It’s a word you don’t often hear in a Pakistani context. When you do hear it, it’s in a confused, garbled narrative where those discussing rape culture think that it means that all women are rape  victims. And what exactly is rape culture? Definitions tend to be framed around a white, first-world Western perspective, but can be adapted to our third-world Pakistani context as well.

Rape culture is treating rape as something that happens because of where you were, or what you were wearing, or what time of the night it was. Rape culture is the time my tenth grade Chemistry teacher told a class of 25 female students that they could never be brave enough to stand on the street at 10 pm because they’re girls. Rape culture is claiming that laws against domestic violence push a “western” agenda, and deny men the “right” to beat their wives.

Rape culture is victim-blaming, as if a woman chooses to have her body violated. Rape culture is telling survivors of rape that they have destroyed the family honor. Rape culture is burdening women with the honor of their entire family. Rape culture is burdening women with family honor because a woman is her father’s property, and then her husband’s property. Rape culture is lack of rape kits and forensic labs because conducting tests to prove that a woman has been raped is not only unimportant, it is also considered un-Islamic. Rape culture is Islamic councils persisting in the claim that if a child hits puberty, they can be married. Rape culture is treating women as property to the point of “exchanging” brides in tribal customs because “If the family, we marry our daughter into gives us one of their women, then they will treat our daughter well for fear that we would mistreat their woman.” Rape culture is suspecting a woman has ‘illicit relations’ because she’s seen talking to a man. Rape culture is killing women because they were dancing or talking on a mobile phone, because a mobile phone serves no other purpose than to facilitate women with loose morals who conduct affairs with men and bring shame to their family. Rape culture is a woman being of loose morals because she works, talks to men, has a boyfriend, or goes out at night. Rape culture is your father telling you that you can’t go out at night with your female friends because if someone he knows sees you, “what will people say?”

Rape culture is throwing acid on a woman’s face because she refused your marriage proposal. Rape culture is slaughtering your cousin’s three children because she refused to marry you. Rape culture is corrective rape of a lesbian because it isn’t homosexuality, “she just hasn’t met a real man yet.” Rape culture is discriminating against the LGBT community to enforce and strengthen the heteronormative patriarchal structures of society.

Rape culture is the refusal to teach a child sex-Ed because not only is sex shameful and dirty, but children must not be allowed to learn about sexuality. Rape culture is parents sending their daughters to girls-only schools because boys are uncontrollable animals who see a female and immediately want to violate her. Rape culture is a male classmate looking at a girl wearing capris and a fitted shirt and saying, “Where’s her dupatta?” Rape culture is his female friend refusing to admonish him, and playing along by saying “she forgot it at home.” Rape culture are the memes or social media updates about Pakistan “raping” India because the former won a cricket match, and a sports victory indicates the strength of your masculinity which must further be reinforced by references to raping the opposing team.

Rape culture is the rape joke that makes survivors of assault flinch and cringe and suffer from traumatic flashbacks. Rape culture is the rape joke that taps into every woman’s greatest fear, and makes a mockery out of the violation of a woman’s body and her very being. Rape culture is calling women over-sensitive for taking offense at a rape joke, and thereby delegitimizing a woman’s experience and trauma.

Rape culture is bro culture, where men support each other in sexism and misogyny because “bros before hos.” Rape culture is young women assimilating into bro culture because it is easier to live as a woman who perpetuates discrimination against her own sex, simply for the sake of earning men’s acceptance and validation. Rape culture is when men have sex because “boys will be boys” but if a woman has an active sex-life, she’s destroying her life.

Rape culture is using the violation of a woman’s body as a tool for ethnic cleansing or a weapon of warfare. Rape culture is women being harassed when they go to file an FIR after being raped, with police treating them like they “asked for it”. Rape culture is the dehumanization of sex workers. Rape culture is the claim that a woman who sells her body to make a living cannot be raped and deserves no rights. Rape culture is denying the existence of marital rape. Rape culture is a marriage contract that asks if the bride is “a maiden/virgin, a widow, or divorced.” Rape culture is a religious cleric crossing out the clause of the marriage contract in which the husband gives his wife “permission” to divorce him because a woman shouldn’t have the right to divorce. Rape culture is young women being honour-killed” for singing and dancing at a mixed gathering. Rape culture is the prevalence of tribal customs which insist that a woman who dances or sings in front of men has dishonoured her family/tribe and must be killed. Rape culture is a television anchor harassing a rape survivor on live television, within hours of her assailants being acquitted.

Rape culture is that when Dr. Shazia Khalid was raped, she was pressured into leaving the country because the ruler of the country was a military dictator who wanted to protect the soldiers who raped Dr. Khalid. Rape culture is when that same military dictator went on to say in an interview, “Nowadays they say in Islamabad, if you want to get a Canadian visa and make millions, get raped.” Rape culture is the dictator going on to say, “Who knows with Dr. Khalid, maybe it is the same case of making money.” Rape culture is when the dictator denies ever making such heinous statements, rather than apologizing for such vile claims. Rape culture is years later, a woman self-immolating because she cannot get justice for her rape, and still being treated as a joke.

Rape culture is a young girl being gang-raped, but being frightened into dropping her case within 24 hours. Rape culture is the reasons that the girl dropped her case; that a prominent politician who came to the police station to see her, named the survivor on live television, as well as calling her “rude and hyper” because she’s too traumatized to say anything. Rape culture is the politician mentioning that the man who brought the survivor to the station lives with her as her roommate, and stating that “this is her version of the story.” Rape culture is the reporter who loudly said mashallah in a sarcastic tone when the politician stated that the survivor said she did not want notoriety. Rape culture is two newspapers publishing the name of the survivor, as well as  where she lived, her friend’s name, and the personal fact that she lived with her boyfriend. Rape culture is the assumption that the survivor was a ‘prostitute’ (because if a woman sells her body, then she’s asking to be raped) or painting her male friend as her pimp. Rape culture is the lack of justice because the assailants were from elite, influential families.

Rape culture is wrong. There is no black or white in this situation. There will never be a way to justify rape culture, not in the name of religion, not in the name of honor, not in the name of social values, not in the name of tradition. But in actuality, rape culture is justified. It is justified by the excuse that Islam promotes modesty and has tasked men with protecting the oh-so-inferior women. It is justified with a culture that is not like the much-disparaged Western culture where women wear shorts and have abortions. It is justified by the most dangerous of all excuses, traditional norms.  (Read Sana Saleem’s blog on rape culture here.)

Bolo Bhi is hosting a conference in Islamabad. Titled ‘Alliance for Action,’ the conference will bring together people from various professions and organizations to discuss growing censorship and surveillance over the Internet today, and how we can move towards safer and better access.

The Conference will be held on July 19, Saturday, between 2-7 PM at Marriott Hotel Islamabad. See below:





Conference Opening


Panel 1: Cost of Censorship & Surveillance for the Industry

Speakers: Jehan Ara & Wahaj us Siraj


Panel 2: Cost of Censorship on Education

Speakers: Dr Arshad Ali & Dr Qasim Sheikh


VIDEO: Documentary by Bolo Bhi


Panel 3: Privacy vs Surveillance

Speakers: Tahira Abdullah, Mubashir Zaidi & Sana Saleem


Panel 4: Leveraging the Freedom of Information and Right to Information Acts

Speakers: Dr Raza Gardezi, Zahid Abdullah & Usama Khilji


Panel 5: Talking Solutions

Speakers: Senator Afrasiab Khattak & Senator Farhatullah Babar







The Necessary & Proportionate Principles can be construed as being the foundation of all legislative functions in regard to any surveillance that needs to be carried out anywhere in the world. What is necessary to note here is that there are barely a handful of nations which take citizen privacy seriously and do not perceive the denial of this privacy as an affront to an internationally recognized human right. In a state like Peoples Republic of China where the Great Firewall prevents citizens on accessing anti-state information and keep tabs on their citizens activity online. Ironically, Peoples Republic of   China was one of the principal designers of the membership of the Commission of the Human Rights.

In Pakistan, where surveillance and content filtering happens on an ad hoc basis and no legislation exists, the time is ripe to draft legislation pertaining to surveillance. The current set up entrusts the Federal Investigation Agency in tandem with the Ministry of Information Technology to carry out surveillance and blocking of pages on an ad hoc level. No information is disseminated to the common public to evaluate the criteria employed by the State in blocking websites. Nor explanations as to what is construed as, “objectionable” content. The Cyber Crimes Bills of 2007, 2011 and now 2014 all failed to make it past the Parliament, and with good reason; they repeatedly failed to address the blatant violations of citizen privacy and how they resonate with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such repeated failures to strike a balance between protection of rights and provision of security have led to a landscape that is either completely unregulated, or regulated with a completely lack of transparency and with little or no public oversight, which are key principles of the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.
The latter scenario is ably demonstrated by the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, which reads:

5. Use of armed forces and civil armed forces to prevent terrorism.

(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of sub-section (1), an officer of the police, armed forces and civil armed forces may—

iii) Enter and search without warrant, any premises to make any arrest or to take possession of any property, firearm, weapon or article used or likely to be used, in the commission of any terrorist act or scheduled offence.

Clearly a country at the front line of the War on Terror needs laws that effectively deal with the problems associated with terrorism, so in accordance with the Principles, there is a necessity and a legitimate aim. However, the question that then arises is whether such laws are proportionate and adequate, and whether they fit within the ambit of ensuring due process. The aforementioned law not only involves physical searches of property, which is an abuse of due process, but has also been used in order to digitally surveil individuals, which is a violation of the principle of user-notification. At a stage before sufficient guilt to process a warrant exists, this poses a serious threat to individual liberties. This is, not only by all standards a mockery of due process but also fails to ensure transparency and there is no form of public oversight, or competent judicial authority that oversees who is surveilled and for what purposes. The process also leaves no room for user notification of any form, and neither are the criterion of the requirement for proportionality addressed by the legislation. For a country attempting to pull itself out of a history of military rule, it does not bode well for democracy when unregulated and arbitrary policing is still the objective of the state. This clause even becomes harrowing when read with 27B of the same act, a recent addition to the Anti-Terrorism Act, which reads:

“… the conviction of an accused for an offence under this Act solely on the basis of electronic or forensic evidence or such other evidence that may have become available because of modern devices or techniques referred to [in the evidence law] shall be lawful.”

The addition of electronic evidence as a basis of conviction after allowing authorities to “hack” access to electronic devices in order to surveil individuals with no requirement for procedure or transparency further puts citizens at risk of being at the wrong end of a disproportionate misuse of unrestricted power by security forces.

The lack of accountability, which again is an integral pillar of the  Necessary and Proportionate Principles, was further highlighted by the creation of the Inter Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Websites (IMCEW) by the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2006 via notification number 5-1 2005 DFU. The mandate of the IMCEW was ambiguous to the point that it defies all notions of clarity of law, with its official task being to censure “obnoxious and blasphemous” material over the internet. To this date, no legal definition has been attributed to the word obnoxious. That may go a long way in explaining why websites such as the Pakistan Telecommunications workers union website, minority rights websites, entertainment websites (such as IMDB), and many more have been blocked at some stage or the other by the IMCEW.

In approximately 8 years since it’s creation, no functioning or decision of the IMCEW has ever been made public. It provides no list of websites it requests the PTA to have blocked, it is not required to provide reason, and there exists no process for appeals against its decisions. Once again, a flagrant disregard for due process, with non-existent accountability and public oversight, and an arbitrary policing authority straight out of a Orwellian nightmare can be identified as a distinct feature of the Pakistani laws in relation to internet privacy and freedom of access to information.

Article 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunications (Re-organization) Act 1996 is another cause of concern. It reads:

“Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, in the interest of national security or in the apprehension of any offence, the Federal Government may authorise any person or persons to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any telecommunication system.”

Here the federal government provides itself with the complete authority to order searches and surveillance against individuals, which again poses questions of  due process, transparency, and proportionality. In its entirety, the law becomes a dilatory exercise that fails in its fundamental aims to protect individual liberties, and in the process, loses its legitimacy. This violates the Principles that demand authorities must have a “legitimate aim”, “necessity” and “adequacy”.

Being a citizen of a democratic state, it is every individual’s right to ask and be provided with information. However, in the geographical and legal jurisdiction of the Federal Government, bureaucracy prevents individuals from privacy, and access to information which is so desperately needed. In a report by Freedom House, Pakistan’s internet was classified as, “Not Free” with no regard to internet security and privacy. On a scale of 1-100 with 100 being worst, Pakistan ranked 67 on the Freedom on the Net. Such is our cyber infrastructure.

The current legislations and the lack of necessary protections calls for immediate reforms in existing laws, unless there’s significant push for secure and open communications fears of a surveillance state are real and fast becoming our reality.