Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.
It would seem that in Pakistan, there is nothing you need to watch out for more than making a joke about President Asif Ali Zardari by SMS (Short Messaging Service).
If you mistakenly, or just for fun, share with a friend one of the hundreds of derisory jokes about the leader floating around electronically, you could get a 14-year prison sentence.
Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik announced last week that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been tasked to trace SMS (or text messages) and e-mails that “slander the political leadership of the country” under the vague Cyber Crimes Act. In addition to facing up to 14 years in the jail, violators could have their property seized, Malik said, adding that the government would seek Interpol assistance in deporting foreign offenders.
I think whatever the jail sentence announced for each accused person, Zardari himself should be made to serve 10 percent of it.
I particularly like this Zardari joke from the report above:
Robber: Give me all your money!
Zardari: Don’t you know who I am? I am Asif Ali Zardari!
Robber: Okay. Give me all my money!
Oops, wait, I’d better watch it, or there’ll be an Interpol notice out on me for having a Zardari joke on my blog. Maybe Pakistan will suggest a Lakhvi for Varma swap. We’ll give you the terrorist mastermind, they could say, if you hand over the blogger who dared to joke about our esteemed president.
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