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HRCP urges govt to abolish sedition law

By Our Correspondent
February 05, 2023

LAHORE :The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed its deep concern over the spate of recent arrests and cases filed against opposition leaders and journalists on charges of sedition, treason, and making statements conducing to ‘public mischief’ and incitement to violence.

“The sheer impunity with which such arrests have been made, often without warning in the early hours of the morning, with some of those arrested alleging that their families were harassed and their property damaged, is cause for alarm,” HRCP said in a statement issued Saturday.

“Successive governments have brazenly weaponised archaic, colonial-era laws to stifle dissent. Never has this served any democratic purpose. While we do not condone abusive or threatening language or slander, in light of the recent arrests of leaders such as Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed and Fawad Chaudhry under Sections 153-A, 505 and 124-A, HRCP urges the government to abolish the sedition law, as it is currently worded, from the Pakistan Penal Code, given its long history as a tool of political victimisation. A political process to do so, which was initiated in the Senate in early 2020 but could not come to fruition, must be revived immediately,” the statement said.

Section 124-A constitutes a constraint on the legitimate exercise of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression.

Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of robust public debate in a vibrant democracy and should never be construed as sedition, it said.