Journalists, Lawyers’ Bodies ‘Deeply Concerned’ Over Bill Criminalising Criticism Of Armed Forces
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) are deeply concerned about the proposed amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code 1898, by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior, which has recommended that persons who ‘disrespect’ or ‘intentionally ridicule’ the armed forces be fined or imprisoned. The PFUJ, PBC and HRCP believe that this amendment is ultra vires to the Constitution and contradicts Article 19, which protects the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Expressing their alarm, PBC Vice Chairman Khushdil Khan, PFUJ president Shahzada Zulfiqar and secretary-general Nasir Zaidi said that the amendment was designed to usurp citizens’ rights and civil liberties, which were already being muzzled by the government. They added that the people of Pakistan were well aware of the importance of state institutions, including the armed forces, and did not need an amendment to prove this.
The leadership of the PFUJ, PBC and HRCP further said that respect was earned and could not be enforced through laws. The proposed amendment intentionally or unintentionally makes the institution controversial by setting out that military officers need a punitive law to be enforced against their own people. They urged both the parliament and government to refrain from framing such laws that would also be seen as a blot on Pakistan’s image in the international community.