LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif announced on Monday the joint opposition had decided to table a resolution in Parliament, seeking repeal of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) amendment ordinance under Rule 145.
In a meeting with the media joint action committee members here on Monday, Shehbaz said the opposition had decided to file a petition for hosting of the joint sitting of parliament to repeal the black law against media and had issued instructions to the party leaders to take practical steps in that regard.
According to the regulation, if a resolution is tabled in a joint sitting of parliament to repeal an ordinance, after approval by the House, the ordinance can be repealed. Shehbaz supported the decision of the media joint action committee to challenge the Peca amendment ordinance in the court. He termed the media law a manifestation of authoritarian, fascist and undemocratic thinking of the present government and said that his party rejected those amendments and it would challenge all black laws at every legal forum and block their way.
He assured the joint action committee members that his party would repeal all draconian and anti-media laws if it was elected to power in elections. He promised the PMLN would repeal laws that violate the constitutional freedom of access to information.
The delegation that met the opposition leader included leaders of Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) and All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS).
Shehbaz said the media was a mirror in which the rulers could see their face; so they should correct their facial features instead of removing the mirror. He said the rulers were under the misconception that they might force punishments, imprisonment and fines through the black law.
“This is not going to happen,” he said and paid homage to the historic struggle for freedom of expression and truth telling of the media. He said the media had fought an unforgettable battle for its freedom at many stages in the history.
The opposition leader said if the government had not been malicious, the draft would have come to the parliament instead of its passage through back door, in shape of an ordinance. However, he parried both the questions related to his meeting with Jehangir Khan Tareen and date for putting up no-confidence motion against Imran Khan.
Meanwhile, on the call of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, media persons across country observed a black day against the Peca ordinance to register their protest. Journalists in different parts of the country held demonstrations outside press clubs, chanted slogans against the amendment to Peca 2016 and demanded its repeal.
Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) held a big protest demonstration in Quetta, where PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and other leaders of journalist fraternity said that the government wanted to put curbs on the media through Peca, but it would face defeat in implementation of the draconian law. Zulfiqar said that the PFUJ had taken the matter to court and it would protest against the draconian law at all platforms.
The biggest protest was organised by Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) in front of the parliament house. Addressing the protesters, Nasir Zaidi, secretary general of the PFUJ, and former president of the union Afzal Butt, described Peca as a fascist tool that was meant to stifle freedom of expression, guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.
Zaidi said that it was just the first phase of the struggle against Peca, which was not being opposed by the journalist fraternity alone, but also by political parties and civil society, which have also rejected it. He said even the allies of PTI were standing with the media persons on the issue. But it seems the government had decided to kill the democratic traditions, he regretted.
Afzal Butt warned rulers against implementing the law which, he claimed, would bring disrepute to the country. Rejecting the amendment to the Peca, 2016, journalists at a protest demonstration in Karachi said the draconian law intended to restrain media freedom and stifle dissent.
Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) organised a protest outside Karachi Press Club where journalist leaders vowed to protest against the law at every forum and said that journalist bodies and media organisations had never and would never accept such ordinances. A large number of journalists, holding banners and placards, took part in the protest.
Reham Khan, ex-wife of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who also attended the protest as a journalist to show solidarity with journalists, said that snatching the freedom of expression was tantamount to dictatorship. “Conspiracies are being hatched in the country to deprive journalists and ordinary citizens of their basic rights,” she said.
KUJ President Shahid Iqbal said that members of civil society, including journalists, are supporting the journalists’ struggle for freedom of expression and freedom of the press. KUJ Secretary-General Fahim Siddiqui said that efforts had been made to silence the voices of journalists but every time journalists had won. “This time too, they will win,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) would take up a petition filed by Lahore High Court Bar Association President Maqsood Buttar against Peca amendment ordinance on Tuesday (today). IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah would hear the petition, in which president of Pakistan, information secretary, cabinet division secretary, FIA, law and justice secretary have been made party. -News Desk
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