Pakistans National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior has approved a Bill that would punish those who intentionally criticise the countrys armed forces.
The committee has approved the Bill to amend the Pakistan Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, sanctioning punishment to those who ridicule armed forces through intended criticism.
As per the details of the Bill, “anyone who shall be guilty of said offence could face up to two years imprisonment or fine that may extend to Rs 500,000 or both”.
The Bill titled Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2020, which was introduced by the ruling party’s Amjid Ali Khan, was approved by the committee despite opposition from the political camps.
The Bill proposes amendment to Section 500 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which currently states “whosoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or both”.
The amendment proposes “punishment for international ridiculing of the armed forces etc. Whosoever intentionally ridicules, brings into disrepute or defames the armed forces of Pakistan or a member thereof, shall be guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or fine which may extend to five hundred thousand rupees, or both”.
Opposition lawmakers from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim LeagueNawaz (PML-N) opposed the proposed amendment, stating that there was no need to introduce the Bill, as it is already covered under Article 19 of the Constitution.
Other than the opposition party’s concerns, the home department of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) provincial government, which is led by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), also opposed the Bill, stating that its declaration would create conflict among the existing constitutional and stationary provision, adding that its misuse could not be overruled.
The KP government also maintained that the Bill would create differences and discrimination between other law enforcement agencies and public offices.
However, the Interior Ministry maintains that the amendment is being proposed because of the increasing criticism against the armed forces in the country.
“The incidents of defaming the armed forces have increased in the country and some disruptive elements, for furtherance of their political objectives, engage in this undesirable practice, which is very defamatory and demoralising for the armed forces of Pakistan. The Interior Ministry endorses the proposed legislation keeping in view the current situation in the country,” read the ministry’s explanation.
It should be mentioned here that the opposition party’s alliance to topple the government has been giving statements against the interventions of the country’s military establishment in political matters, calling for a complete end to what they call ‘deliberate interventions’ to select political leaders, manipulate voting processes and damage the democratic system of the country.