Photo file | Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan with General Qamar Javed Bajwa | Facebook / ImranKhanOfficial
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If you thought that people not responding to your WhatsApp messages and leaving you with blue ticks is a criminal offense, there you are, there are people in Pakistan who actually think creating memes should be declared a crime.
It turns out that the Imran Khan government wants the intentional ridicule of the armed forces to be considered a crime and a punishable offense. We do not yet know who will define the intentional or not in the ridiculous. Will unintentional ridicule always be a crime? Will ridicule in sleep be an act of high treason?
In the National Assembly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Amjad Ali Khan introduced the Criminal Law Bill 2020 (Amendment) to amend Pakistan’s penal code. The bill proposes a jail term and a fine for this “heinous” crime. Anyone who intentionally ridicules, discredits or defames the Pakistan Armed Forces or any of its members will be guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment of up to two years or a fine of up to five hundred. thousand rupees. , or with both, says Bill.
Glad that politicians are banned in this delicate bill.
Also read: Imran Khan’s government seen grow intolerant of criticism as journalists face cases of treason
Rules in Naya Pakistan
Several technical questions arose from this bill.
A valid question is: what if someone shares Imran Khan’s past views on the armed forces prior to being prime minister? Will the Prime Minister be punished under the proposed bill? At least Khan was free to express his dissent in a country that was not like his Naya Pakistan. There was a time when he could say that no hope should be placed on Pakistani generals because they have no dum if 20,000 people come out to demonstrate in the streets. The generals were peeing in their pants, they’re so buzdil, Khan was seen proclaiming in a viral video.
Another time, Imran Khan criticized the military for bombing its own citizens in Balochistan and Waziristan, and for failing to learn lessons from East Pakistan in 1971. In another interview, Khan said that only a benefactor of the armed forces would criticize its overbreadth in the country. political domain and respond to its various allegations of corruption. No one considered any of this a criminal offense, but times have changed now. The old man is a traitor of today.
The bill to silence dissent in Pakistan comes at a time when criminal charges are filed daily against journalists and activists, censorship is rampant, journalists are disappearing and even books are now disappearing. This is what smart martial law looks like!
Also read: Pakistani women journalists say they face online abuse by officials for criticizing Imran government
A free country
While Prime Minister Imran Khan can continue to tell the world that Pakistani media is free and there is no bullying, reality hangs in front of us and we are awake even though the Prime Minister chooses to sleep . Last week, three journalists were detained for allegedly defaming the military. Bilal Farooqi, editor-in-chief of the Express Tribune, was arrested for his very provocative messages which defamed the army. He was then released. An FIR for sedition was filed against Absar Alam, the former chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, for using “derogatory” language against the military and the prime minister. Likewise, Islamabad journalist Asad Ali Toor has been booked for social media posts considered negative propaganda against the state.
In short, doing your job gets you nominated for FIRs. Otherwise, your books are confiscated.
Journalist Suhail Warraich’s new book Yeh Company Nahin Chalay Gi (This Company Wont Run), which is an anthology of his Urdu newspaper Jang and BBC Urdu columns, was seized from bookstores within hours of its release, and not because of what was in the book, but because of what was on its cover. A satirical cartoon depicting Pakistan’s politics General Qamar Javed Bajwa seated in a chair while a baby Imran Khan plays at his feet. Warraich was asked to remove his book’s social media ads and said the title was objectionable and offended some. Isn’t that the idea of cartoons in the first place? However, the company had talked about Yeh Book Nahin Chalay Gi.
As it stands, humor is not the strong point of the Imran Khan regime. Last year, cartoonist Khalid Hussain was sacked after drawing Prime Minister Khan chasing a Kashmir mediation carrot held by US President Donald Trump as he drove with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on wagon. Earlier this year, author Mohammed Hanifs, an Urdu edition of A Case of Exploding Mangoes, went missing when namaloom men seized stocks from his Karachi publishers and bookstores in Islamabad and Lahore.
In the midst of FIRs, censorship, self-censorship, disappearances, bans, let’s keep calm and tell ourselves that whatever happens, we are freer than the freest media.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. His Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Opinions are personal.
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