Pakistan submitted national report for its human rights review under a unique and important UN mechanism, the Universal Periodic Review. It presents a flowery picture of everything good in the country from civil and political rights to economic and cultural rights, gender rights and the rights of minorities. Then why do Pakistanis make such a hue and cry? Why televisions and newspapers are thronged with rights violations? And who brought them to the lime light? Definitely these liars have nothing to do with patriotism and the country — are they traitors? Attacks on journalists, kidnappings, torture and threats to them and their families are common in Pakistan, and these are done with absolute impunity The review is taking place in Geneva today, and Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif is leading a large Pakistani delegation at the Human Rights Council. Last time, former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar presented this report and made several voluntary commitments along with 168 recommendations that the country received from reviewing States during 2nd cycle of UPR. The government believes staunchly that it has ensured for every citizen the access to basic necessities, such as food, clean drinking water, health and education. Absolutely, no issues of civil liberties exist at all, and all the human rights benchmarks have been maintained at the highest level. Responding to the 2nd cycle’s recommendations 27 and 29, page 15 of the national report reads, “The government’s strong commitment to the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and opinion is demonstrated by the fact that more than 100 media channels and hundreds of newspapers enjoy complete freedom… the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) was adopted by the parliament with the intention to prevent cyber-crimes and protect citizens’ rights of freedom of expression and opinion.” These lines are not more than another lie that this report has piled up in the presence of the fact that the State has actually criminalised expression in Pakistan with introduction of harsh and disproportionate penalties to crimes related to expression and opinion in PECA. A recent report by a digital rights group after analysing three years of network data of Pakistani internet concluded that the State has been censoring political dissent and expression of religious minorities. Particularly Baloch ethnic groups and commentary related to religion There’s no second opinion that unfettered freedoms to the rights may also lead to circumstances where public good and peace could be at stake. Therefore, the international human rights regime also guides on few restrictions on rights, which can only be provided by the law and when necessary in a democratic society. However, in Pakistan there is a list of restrictions that the Constitution provides itself beside those exercised by the State and non-State actors without enjoying any legal cover. Attacks on journalists, kidnappings, torture and threats to them and their families are common in Pakistan, and these are done with absolute impunity. The State’s indicator to gauge freedom of expression is only limited to the number of television channels, radios and newspapers in the country. The sad reality is that it has been keeping its eyes tightly shut on the events of heavily censoring and blocking online content which criticises the military and corrupt governance apparatus. A recent report by a digital rights group after analysing three years of network data of Pakistani internet concluded that the State has been censoring political dissent and expression of religious minorities. Particularly Baloch ethnic groups and commentary related to religion. Cracking down against social media users and criminalising dissent of those raising questions on the State for its biased and flawed policies would be tantamount to protecting freedom of expression for the State, but to me this is just like committing a crime in the broad daylight. The idea that in few hours Khawaja Asif would confidently be reading a report full of lies in front of delegates from190 countries makes my skin crawl and fills me with shame as a Pakistani. Whereas the reviewing States would be keeping another report in front of them containing the long list of human rights violations that the State has been perpetrating against its citizens. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the day Pakistan has true freedom of expression. The writer is a journalist and digital rights researcher. Follow: @advertbalcha Published in Daily Times, November 14th 2017.