ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Saturday approved a summary of a five-year sentence for criticising the state institutions including Pakistan army, judiciary and others on electronic media.
According to sources, the government has decided to make amendments in the Electronic Crimes Prevention Act. The federal cabinet approved the amendment in the Electronic Crimes Prevention Act through an ordinance, reported a private news channel.
According to sources, the ordinance will come into force after the approval of the president.
Sources have further told Geo News that the federal cabinet has amended the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) code of conduct, paving the way for ministers and the parliamentarians to run election campaigns of their favourite candidates in the country.
”All the political parties have reservations over the code of conduct introduced by the ECP,” sources said. The government has decided to amend the ECP’s code of conduct through a presidential ordinance.
Meanwhile Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Saturday that two important bills have been sent to the federal cabinet for approval.
The minister said in a tweet, “Under the first proposal, parliamentarians would be allowed to participate in the election campaign. While under the other, insulting the dignity of the people on social media has been made a punishable offence."
Fawad explained that under the proposed law, with reference to insulting the dignity of others on social media, the courts are bound to decide such cases in six months.
Meanwhile, Fawad highlighted the significance of Prime Minister Imran’s Khan upcoming visit to Russia, terming it ‘great and a game-changer for bilateral relations of the two countries.
“It will be a great and game-changer visit, and by the grace of Allah Almighty, and now after China, Pakistan’s relations with Russia are going to get further strength,” he said while addressing media persons here.
He said it was happening after 23 years that Russia had invited any Pakistani leader to Moscow, which reflected Prime Minister Imran Khan’s leadership qualities. He said Russian President Putin had extended great respect to PM Imran Khan, rarely given to any leader.
Fawad said Prime Minister Imran Khan was of such a high stature that his stance was always acknowledged at the world level whether it was on Islamophobia, regional or international issues. He said there was no leader of Imran Khan’s stature in the country, terming all political opponents, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Maryam Safdar and Shehbaz Sharif ‘dwarfs’ in front of the PM.
He said opposition leaders had no credibility within the country and abroad due to their corrupt practices, and ‘no one is ready to listen to them.’
He asked Maryam Safdar to return the money looted by his family if she was a well-wisher of the country. “We have taken one billion dollars from the IMF and the value of the apartment owned by Maryam’s brother Hassan Nawaz in London is also the same, if she brings that money back, it will help overcome our challenges.”
The minister said the opposition had no guts and political prowess to bring a no-trust motion against the prime minister. “Those who are trying to bring no-trust against us do not have the trust of their own family.”
He said those who could not succeed in the Senate of Pakistan where they had the majority, were not in the position to defeat the government in the National Assembly. He dared the opposition to bring the no-trust tomorrow instead of the other day.
Fawad expressed the confidence that the PTI governments in Punjab and Centre did not face any threat from the opposition. “At this stage, no change will come from anywhere because nobody leaves the government if it is strong.”
To a query, he confirmed the plan of inducting state ministers in those ministries where the federal ministers were given charge of the party offices.
Meanwhile, the Opposition has taken strong exception to the reports that the government is aiming to bring the important legislations through the ordinance, which would declare online defamation a punishable offence and allow the parliamentarians to participate in the election campaign and said Presidential Ordinance was a weapon by ignoring Parliament for important legislation is an insult to democratic traditions and Parliament.
Commenting on the reports of government intentions bringing an ordinance to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016 (PECA Act 2016), Senator Irfan Siddiqui of the PMLN said that the abrupt cancellation of the National Assembly two days after the Senate session and convening the National Assembly session indicates that the government malicious design to bring an ordinance and by passing the Parliament.
He said It is very unfortunate to deliberately ignore the Parliament and create a special atmosphere for the promulgation of the ordinance.
Irfan Siddiqui said that imposition of ordinances on sensitive issues like freedom of expression is a very negative step for any democratic society.
He said when the prime minister and ministers will run the election campaign then they will use the state aurhority to ensure the success of their candidate while the opposition did not have the state authority.
Former Senate chairman Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said that the president has been and continues to promulgate ordinances, as an alternative to legislation by Parliament, without meeting the requirements or applying his mind, as required by Article 89, Constitution, 1973. “Parliament will think that what action against the president has to be taken,” he said.
He said Parliament has been made redundant as it has two main functions legislation and parliamentary oversight virtually that do not exist. “Law making has been replaced by rule of ordinances or by bulldozing of laws,” he said.
Meanwhile, the JUIF has rejected the change made in Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) code of conduct by the federal government claiming that only ECP has authority to make such changes.
JUIF senator Kamran Murtaza said according to Article 218 of Constitution of Pakistan it is the responsibility of ECP to hold free and fair elections and if it is ECP responsibility then authority to make any change in code of conduct also rests with ECP.
He further said that by enforcing such change through presidential ordinance federal cabinet is humiliating itself. They are changing the code of conduct but shall oppose it in future.
Commenting on the development, Dr Osama Siddique, a leading legal academic who taught law at Harvard University, said: "It appears that the government is both very keen to ensure it uses its control over state machinery to its maximum advantage and anxious to clamp down on any critique and dissent. This is very short-term and self-serving thinking that is oblivious to how such hasty legislation will be liable to future misuse and chill free speech."
He said the government should think about what is good for larger politics and also when they will have to sit in opposition. "Angry politicians make bad laws," he concluded. -By Our Correspondents
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