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Freedom of Assembly: A Cornerstone of Democracy

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Barrister Naveed Qazi

Freedom of assembly, also known as freedom of peaceful assembly, is a fundamental human right recognized in international law and democratic constitutions. It provides individuals with the right to gather in public spaces for various purposes. In this article, we explore the significance of freedom of assembly, its functions in a democratic society, and its constitutional protection.

The Basics

  1. What Is Freedom of Assembly?
  • Freedom of assembly allows people to come together in public places without interference from authorities. It encompasses various activities, including peaceful protests, public meetings, and celebratory gatherings.
  • Let’s delve into the key aspects of this essential right.
  1. Peaceful Protests
  • Peaceful protests are a powerful expression of dissent. They allow citizens to voice their disagreement with government policies, advocate for change, and raise awareness about social issues.
  • Whether it’s a march, sit-in, or demonstration, peaceful protests play a crucial role in shaping public opinion and influencing policy decisions.
  1. Public Meetings and Conferences
  • Freedom of assembly enables individuals to gather for meetings, conferences, or discussions. These gatherings foster dialogue, exchange of ideas, and collaboration.
  • Public meetings provide a platform for experts, activists, and concerned citizens to share knowledge, debate, and propose solutions.
  1. Celebrations and Social Movements
  • Beyond dissent and discourse, freedom of assembly extends to celebratory events, religious gatherings, cultural demonstrations, and social movements.
  • Whether it’s a festive parade, a religious congregation, or a climate change rally, these gatherings strengthen community bonds and promote shared values.

The Importance of Freedom of Assembly

  1. Voice for the People
  • Collective assembly empowers individuals to express their opinions and concerns. When people come together, their collective voice holds the government accountable.
  • Policymakers must listen to the demands of the assembled crowd, ensuring that policies align with the will of the people.
  1. Promoting Social Change
  • Social movements often emerge from peaceful assemblies. Whether it’s civil rights, environmental protection, or gender equality, these movements advocate for vital changes.
  • By mobilizing citizens, freedom of assembly becomes a catalyst for progress and justice.
  1. Open Dialogue and Public Discourse
  • Peaceful gatherings create a platform for open dialogue. Participants exchange ideas, challenge assumptions, and propose solutions.
  • This exchange fosters a healthy democracy, encourages critical thinking, and helps address complex societal challenges.
  1. Building Solidarity
  • When people assemble around shared concerns, they build solidarity. This sense of community strengthens their resolve.
  • Solidarity is a powerful force for social change, as it unites diverse voices toward a common goal.

Constitutional Protection: Article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan

Article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan explicitly guarantees the right to freedom of assembly. It states:

“Every citizen shall have the right to assembly.”

This constitutional provision underscores the importance of this. 

Freedom of assembly is more than a legal concept; it’s a cornerstone of democracy. As citizens exercise this right responsibly, they contribute to an informed, engaged, and vibrant society. Let us continue to uphold and protect this essential freedom for generations to come. Accordingly, it is the constitutional right of every political party, worker, and organization in Pakistan to have the fundamental right of peaceful assembly. PTI should also be allowed to hold peaceful protests, and PDM and especially PMLN must allow PTI to exercise their fundamental right. 

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