April 10, 2021
ISLAMABAD—The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) have expressed deep concern about a proposed amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code 1898 by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior.
The amendment 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.
PBC Vice-Chairman Khushdil Khan, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar (pictured, left) and Secretary-General Nasir Zaidi (pictured, right) said that the amendment was designed to usurp citizens' rights and civil liberties, which the government was already muzzling. They added that the Pakistani people were well aware of state institutions’ importance, 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 people. They urged both the parliament and the government to refrain from framing such laws that would also be seen as a blot on Pakistan's image in the international community.
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