The bill passed by the Senate imposing restrictions on the misuse of loudspeakers and amplifiers in the federal capital to spread sectarian hatred is a welcome step. The use of such means to disseminate highly inflammatory messages is well known to all of us. We hear them in all our towns and cities. While attempts have been made in the past to crack down on the spread of such messages, they have not proved effective for very long. One reason for this is the lack of commitment of authorities to ensure that the laws are properly implemented by mosque imams and also by others who have sometimes relayed highly objectionable messages from functions arranged within their homes. In some cases, complaints to police have brought no results at all.
The step taken by the Upper House is a good one. But there is more that needs to be done. Similar measures need to go into force in all the provinces and some mechanism devised to ensure that the laws are enforced. The issue goes beyond that of sectarianism. Living with constant noise is hazardous to one’s physical and mental well-being, and this means that the noise pollution created by loudspeakers needs to be curbed as far as is practicable. Administrations across the country need to ensure that, this time round, the laws do not remain simply a part of written documents stowed away in files, but are actually brought into force.
While the Senate’s desire to deal with sectarianism is a positive move to deal with a menace which threatens to tear apart harmony within communities, it is insufficient to tackle the menace that has reared up over our society. The ban on the use of loudspeakers must be combined with the implementation of other laws, including a crackdown on widely available CDs and tape cassettes that incite hatred, sometimes handed out at mosques and madrassas. Their impact is disturbing. We must do everything possible to remove such material from the public realm and, by doing so, rebuild the lost harmony that is so urgently required in our country.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2011.
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