Freedom of Expression in Pakistan: A myth or a reality (W - 159)

Freedom of Expression in Pakistan: A myth or a reality (W - 159)

Publication details

  • Tuesday | 01 Nov, 2016
  • Sadaf Liaquat, Elishma Noel Khokhar, Ayesha Qaisrani
  • Working Papers
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Sadaf Liaquat, Ayesha Qaisrani and Elishma Noel Khokhar 


In Pakistan, freedom of expression is the constitutional right of every citizen; however, this right is seldom exercised due to red tape. This study intends to explore the current status of freedom of expression in the country with the aim to identify the factors and actors that/who can contribute/help to improve the situation in this context. The study adopts a qualitative approach to understand the power dynamics and draws out conclusions from a wide variety of stakeholders regarding the issues at hand. Conducted in the Punjab and Sindh provinces, the study concludes that freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed to all citizens of Pakistan albeit with certain restrictions that include ‘glory of Islam, law and order, and national security’.

These restrictions have often been exploited against different groups of people such as minorities, journalists, human rights activists, etc. It has been observed that exploitation is resulting in piling up of cases, like blasphemy missing persons, and targeted killings. A thorough assessment showed that there is a dire need to address ambiguity about certain clauses in the Constitution to avoid any exploitation. Moreover, a comprehensive definition of freedom of expression needs to be redrawn and communicated to the masses so that they might not misinterpret it as a freedom to disregard others’ faiths, perceptions, and opinions.