Dear Anusha Rehman, congratulations on winning the UN award, but...

Published December 16, 2015
Anusha Rahman. —Photo courtesy of the National Assembly website.
Anusha Rahman. —Photo courtesy of the National Assembly website.

Dear IT Minister Anusha Rahman,

I just heard the news about the award, congratulations.

It's inspiring to learn that the UN believes in working for open affordable access for young Pakistani girls. But, is it fair to say you believe in it too?

I know that as a parliamentarian back in the day, Anusha Rehman felt deeply against the YouTube ban and the URL filters. But, I'm not so sure Anusha Rehman the minister feels the same way.

I was thrilled to hear that a woman took the job at the office of the IT Ministry. Even more thrilled because it wasn't just any woman, it was a young lawyer with a lot of experience with legislation.

Also read: ‘IT girl’ in a boy’s world

You were part of one of the most active women’s parliamentary caucus; you spoke on and worked on a lot of legislations alongside your colleagues.

So, everything about you starting office meant we will at least have a reasonable person to hear out some of the most pressing issues.

Instead, our relationship has been largely one-sided and marred with “Yeh foreign NGO type” kind of accolades.

We, as citizens, and are as much Pakistani as you are, we care about issues just as much as your parliamentary self did, most of all, we aren't in the business of abusing a minister as a means of criticism.

Our criticisms coupled with our frustration about not being heard, isn't about hating on you or insulting you, it's about the bureaucracy that won't let us to do our jobs.

A system so rigid and cumbersome that even the most rational arguments bear no merit, as if it's crafted specially to ensure that nothing sane or meaningful shall ever be accomplished.

The award says you care about young women and development; you want to work on increasing their access to knowledge and information. Do you?

Please tell us you do.

Tell us by opening up your doors to young women and men who have been tirelessly trying to approach you, to have a conversation with you about how the proposed cyber crime law will impact their lives, about the ridiculous YouTube ban.

They'll tell you they want secure and fast access to the Internet, that they're thankful for 4G but having a fast running car on a pothole-riddled road isn't exactly a blessing.

Do you want to be remembered as the Minister who didn’t unblock YouTube?

The Minister who proposed one of the most draconian cyber crime bills?

Because, that's how most people will remember you.

I hear you are a hard worker in the office. You spend evenings getting the job done and are a tough boss to work with.

I want to believe that, I want to see the work that keeps your evenings occupied, because I, sure as hell hope it isn't the cybercrime law or how to keep the internet in Pakistan censored.

You know what my biggest frustration is when it comes to you?

We should be on the same side; debating and fighting to increase access, to curb censorship to bring laws that protect citizens, not criminalise them.

Also read: Why Pakistan's cybercrime bill is a dangerous farce

If this award means anything to you, you will open your door to all of us who have been meaning to have a conversation with you.

You will reconsider the implications the proposed cybercrime law will have on the citizens by thinking like one.

You will make this right.

Because if you don't, this will be just another “let me find a brown woman” kind of award, it's meaningless and worst of all, it is a mockery of all what the United Nations and MNA Anusha Rahman once stood for.

Yours reluctantly,
A foreign-funded NGO type


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