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Seems PM Imran Khan was not briefed properly on PECA ordinance: IHC

CJ Athar Minallah remarks that law is used against critics here

By Web Desk
March 01, 2022
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah. -The News/File
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah. -The News/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday observed that Prime Minister Imran Khan has not been briefed properly over the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA) amendment ordinance.

The comments from the IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah came during the hearing of a petition against the electronic crime law that has triggered protests from media bodies and civil society who have termed it a “draconian law”.

Former president of Lahore High Court Bar Maqsood Buttar approached the IHC against the recently promulgated ordinance.

Petitioner's counsel Hassan Irfan Advocate told the court that there are two different points in this petition from the petitions already filed before the IHC.

He argued that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) does not have the authority to look into the issue between two private parties, adding that the agency can only look into cases involving the federal government.

The CJ IHC said that in the speech delivered by Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday, it seems that no one briefed him properly, the law of contempt exists apart from PECA.

“It seems that the prime minister was not assisted correctly in this regard.”

The petitioner's lawyer said that the FIA does not have the power to get involved in private disputes. “Islam also gives freedom of expression.”

At this, CJ Athar Minallah remarked that the law is used against critics here.

The high court adjourned the hearing till March 10, ordering to combine the petition with other petitions against the PECA amendment ordinance and issued notice to the attorney general.

The court directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to ensure that no action was taken against the SOPs.

‘Mafias blackmailing in name of press freedom’

In his address to the nation on Monday, PM Imran Khan had said that there were rumours that freedom of the press was being restricted and people were being silenced through the Act.

“I would like to tell everyone that the Act was made in 2016 and we are just amending it. It is necessary for Pakistan. If we look at the newspapers and media of Pakistan today, 70% of the news is against the government but we do not care about it. However, we have brought the law so that the dirt on social media can be stopped because no civilized society in the world can tolerate what is happening on our social media,” he had said in his televised address.

He had said that women were being targeted and people's homes were razed as fake news spread.

“So far, only 38 out of 94,000 cases registered with the FIA have been decided. Let alone the common people, even the Prime Minister is not being spared. A journalist wrote three years ago that Imran Khan's wife had left him and he had done something illegal in Bani Gala. I lodged a case but await justice even after three years. The same journalist has written again that the wife of the Prime Minister has left home. If this can happen to the Prime Minister of the country, then think what will happen to the rest of the people. The journalist was locked up for three days and beaten up with sticks when he had written about corruption during the Nawaz Sharif government.”

He had said, “When a woman had written against our minister, he went to England and sought justice and now that there has been a talk against Murad Saeed; he is also thinking about going to England to sue her. The Jang media house said that Shaukat Khanum Hospital’s money was going to the PTI but it did not bother to seek the hospital’s version. The hospital won the case in lower courts and now it is going to sue the group in the US and England.”

The prime minister had also contended that it did not happen anywhere in the world.

“In the name of freedom of the press, mafias and journalists are blackmailing people after resorting to mudslinging. No one can dare do it in another democracy,” he had said and recalled that when he had nominated the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir after winning the election, it appeared on the front pages of three main newspapers that the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir was elected through magic.

“If it had happened in newspapers of England or the West, they would have had to pay huge compensation and the newspapers would have been shut down.”