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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2020: Two year imprisonment for criticizing armed forces?

The bill says anyone who shall be guilty of said offence could face up to two years imprisonment or a fine that may extend to Rs500,000, or both. Is this “an absolutely ridiculous bill”?

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior has approved a bill to make amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 to take action against those who intentionally ridicule armed forces.

The bill says anyone who shall be guilty of said offence could face up to two years imprisonment or fine that may extend to Rs500,000, or both.

The bill, titled Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2020 introduced by PTI MNA Amjid Ali Khan, was approved by the NA committee on interior, which met here on Wednesday with MNA Raja Khurram Nawaz in the chair.

The bill proposes an amendment to Section 500 of the PPC, which currently states: “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

The amendment, which will be called Section 500-A states: “Punishment for intentional ridiculing of the Armed Forces etc. Whosoever intentionally ridicules, brings into disrepute or defames the Armed Forces of Pakistan or a member thereof, he shall be guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or fine which may extend to five hundred thousand rupees, or with both.”

Before approval of the bill, the committee saw strong opposition from Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker Agha Rafiullah and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz legislator Marriyum Aurangzeb, but the bill was passed with five against four votes when the committee chairman voted for it.

Federal Minister criticize the bill

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday, tweeted against the bill.  Chaudhry’s tweet today came in response to a post by senior journalist Mazhar Abbas who wrote that while a citizen in Pakistan is free to criticise democracy, free to criticise Parliament, free to criticise politicians, and free to criticise media, the rest is chalked up to “national interest”.

The minister, in response, wrote: “Absolutely ridiculous idea to criminalise criticism, respect is earned, cannot be imposed on people. I strongly feel instead of [such new] laws, Contempt of Court laws should be repealed.”

Later, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari backed Fawad Chaudhry’s views. “Totally agree. Cannot state it strongly enough,” she wrote.

Attempt to counter Indian hybrid war?

On the other hand, some analysts argue that India has prepared a big database for hybrid warfare against the Pakistan army. Therefore, the country needs to effectively tackle it.

By definition, hybrid warfare is a military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare, and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy, lawfare, and foreign electoral intervention.

Read more: Indian Propaganda on Kartarpur is Threat to South Asia’s Peace

India is accused of using hybrid warfare as a tool to weaken Pakistan and defame it before the world. In this regard, there has been a sufficient amount of evidence in international media. The recent reports of EUdisinfo made the matter clearer.

Hybrid warfare aims to spreads chaos in Pakistan

Recently, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said at a ceremony held at the General Headquarters that “we are facing the challenge that has been imposed on us in the form of the fifth-generation or hybrid war”.

“Its purpose is to discredit the country and its armed forces and spread chaos. We are well aware of this danger. We will surely succeed in winning this war with the cooperation of the nation, by the will of the Almighty,” he added.

While speaking at events in Peshawar and Rawalpindi Gen Bajwa had cautioned against the “engineered protests” and emphasized that “no anti-state agenda would be allowed under the garb of those protests”.

‘Diversity is our strength’

COAS Gen Bajwa believes that these protests have been instigated to undo the gains made by the armed forces in the fight against terrorism. “We also refuse to be pulled asunder on issues of sect, ethnicity, caste or creed. The diversity of Pakistan is our strength.”

“The very resilience of Pakistan comes, not just from our military capacity, but from the synergetic mix of a people who have come together, willingly towards a single purpose,” he said. He was referring to the protests by a movement led by some young Pashtuns.

Similarly, Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, while addressing the audience at a seminar titled “Understanding Strategic Coercion in the Realm of Grey Hybrid Conflict – Way forward for Pakistan” organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), said the hysteria about hybrid warfare is not a new phenomenon.

Read more: Indian Media’s Obsession with Pakistan Army Continues to Grow

“Rather, it is old one with changing tools such as fake news, disinformation and propaganda with the purpose of going beyond the truth to disrupt the society. The strategic coercion in the realm of hybrid warfare imposed by the United States of America (USA) on various countries through economic and military means has no basis in international laws, whether it is a breach of nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) with Iran or backing out from the international agreements (Paris Agreement),” she said.