ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Assembly (NA) panel has passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2020, aimed at penalizing anyone on charges of hatred and disrespectful behaviour against the country’s armed forces.
The bill was referred to NA’s standing committee on interior on September 15, 2020, following its introduction in the lower house by a lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), after opposition leaders, specifically former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had directly blamed the security establishment for all problems faced by the country.
Sharif had allegedly held incumbent army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed responsible for imposing a “selected” PM, a reference to Imran Khan, through rigged 2018 elections, on the country.
The introduction of the bill had also coincided with controversy around reporting by a Pakistani news website FactFocus of allegations that a former general, Asim Saleem Bajwa, did not declare millions of dollars of offshore family assets after becoming PM Khan’s special adviser.
The opposition’s anti-military tirade had prompted the government to introduce a bill in the NA, seeking to jail anyone who “ridicules or brings into disrepute or defames the military”.
After a detailed discussion, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior recommended on Wednesday that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2020 may be passed by the lower house.
Committee chairman Raja Khurram Shahzad Nawaz broke the 5-5 vote tie by voting in favour of the proposed bill. The bill proposes amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. According to the proposed legislation, a person found guilty of intentional ridiculing and defaming of the armed forces or any of its member will be punished with imprisonment for a term of up to two years, or fined for up to Rs 5 lakh.