The government of terror state Pakistan led by Imran Khan has cracked down on dissenting voices by sanctioning a five-year prison sentence for people who use electronic media to criticise state institutions such as the Army, judiciary, and ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency).
The state administration, according to reports, has decided to alter the Electronic Crimes Prevention Act, 2016. According to a local news channel, the federal cabinet authorised the change to the Electronic Crimes Prevention Act through an ordinance on February 20, 2022. The ordinance will take effect after the president signs it, sources said.
Speaking on the recent decision taken by the Pakistan govt, union Information Minister Fawad Chowdhury said that those who disseminate slander on social media should now be feared. Those who shared offensive content on social media would be detained and held without bail, he added.
Fawad Chowdhury previously stated that proposed legislation to amend Pakistan’s code of conduct to make criticizing these institutions on social media a criminal offence has been sent to the federal cabinet for approval. Chowdhury said that under the first statute, members of the legislature could participate in election campaigns. People may utilise social media under the second law. Insulting people or government institutions, according to Fawad Chowdhury, would be a criminal violation.
With regard to defamation of others on social media, Fawad said that under the proposed law, courts are obligated to handle such matters within six months.
According to local media, the federal government has decided to make institutional criticism a violent police offence. The government has adopted modifications to the Electronic Crime Prevention Act 2016, according to media sources. Those who criticise the companies through the proposed amendment will be penalised three to five years, according to the report. As a result, an ordinance modifying the Electronic Crime Prevention Act is expected to be passed soon.
Opposition slams Imran Khan for trying to suppress freedom of expression
Meanwhile, the opposition has slammed reports that the government is planning to pass important legislation through the ordinance, which would make criticism on social media a criminal offence and allow parliamentarians to participate in election campaigns. The opposition has called the Presidential Ordinance a weapon, saying that ignoring Parliament for important legislation is an insult to democratic traditions and Parliament.
Senator Irfan Siddiqui of the PMLN, commenting on reports that the government intends to introduce an ordinance to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016 (PECA Act 2016), said that the abrupt cancellation of the National Assembly session two days after the Senate session and convening the National Assembly session indicates that the government has a malicious plan to introduce an ordinance and pass it through Parliament.
He stated It is sad that the ordinance was promulgated in a particular context by purposefully ignoring the Parliament. Irfan Siddiqui said that imposition of ordinances on sensitive issues like freedom of expression is a very negative step for any democratic society.
Pakistan a hotbed of terrorism
Notably, Pakistan’s leadership has been hands in glove with jihadis and is often criticized for patronizing radicals and terrorists. Pakistan’s civilian government, military, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the multiple terrorist groups trained and armed in the nation have a well-established nexus. Pakistan has been recruiting, training, arming, equipping, and financing terrorists and assisting them in crossing the Line of Control (LC) into Kashmir for decades. It also backs terrorist organisations like the Taliban and the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan in their acts of bloodshed and terror.
In fact, in 2019, Imran Khan had agreed that the Pakistan Army and ISI had trained Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to fight in Afghanistan.
However, despite mounting proof of Pakistan’s role in international terrorism sponsorship, the country has taken no significant counter-terrorism measures on its own turf. In truth, it has simply taken cosmetic measures prior to each plenary session of the global watchdog FATF, which has kept Pakistan on its ‘grey list‘ for failing to curb money laundering and terror financing.
In fact, a New York-based Artificial Intelligence startup revealed in April 2020 that Pakistan had quietly removed the names of around 4,000 terrorists from its so-called proscribed person’s list, including the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, as part of its efforts to comply with FATF recommendations.
The superficial steps are merely taken to avoid being placed on the Black List, while the country remains a hotbed of terrorism in reality.