'PTI won’t be able to support bill penalising forces’ criticism'
Party member says it’ll, however, be debated in parliament
Barrister Ali Zafar, a legal expert and a member of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said on Thursday that his party would not be able to support the bill penalising the criticism of armed forces in Pakistan. “I don't think that the PTI will be able to support this bill,” Barrister Zafar told SAMAA TV's anchorperson Nadeem Malik on his show. “But a debate over it will take place and the parliament will decide.” Barrister Zafar doesn't hold any position in Imran Khan's cabinet but the prime minister does consult him over legal matters. Amjad Ali Khan, a PTI lawmaker, tabled the bill in the National Assembly earlier this week. It is aimed at penalising the intentional ridiculing and defaming of the armed forces. The bill proposes amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. It proposes a two-year jail term or Rs500,000 fine or both for anyone who “intentionally ridicules, brings into disrepute or defames the armed forces of Pakistan”. Barrister Zafar told Malik that any private member reserves the right to table any bill as per their vision and conscience. Related: PTI MNA introduces bill penalising intentional ridicule of armed forces “In my view, there was no need of such kind of bill,” he said. No state institution should be above constructive criticism, according to the PTI member. The private-member bill was tabled in the lower house a few days after cases against three journalists Bilal Farooqi, Asad Ali Toor and Absar Alam were registered for “defaming” the armed forces of Pakistan. Alam was also booked for sedition. Barrister Zafar, however, believes that Article-19 of the constitution has already defined the freedom of speech. It is a "very important pillar of Pakistan’s constitution," he said, adding that he didn’t think any society or democracy could move forward without it. Barrister Salman Akram Raja, another well-known lawyer, told Malik that the parliament needs to discuss the cases against journalists. Also the government has a duty to look into the reasons as to why such FIRs were being registered, he said. He advised the legal fraternity to help journalists, if they are implicated in false cases.
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