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Pakistani minister criticizes bill seeking jail for military critics

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A Pakistani cabinet minister on Thursday slammed a proposed bill that would punish criticism of the military with two years in prison and hefty fines, saying the legislation drafted by a parliamentary panel was ridiculous.

Science and technology minister Fawad Chaudhry, who is also a senior leader in the ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf party, took to Twitter to denounce the bill, a day after a special National Assembly committee approved it and sent the draft for presentation to parliament. Opposition lawmakers oppose the bill.

Chaudhry called the idea of ​​criminalizing criticism absolutely ridiculous and that respect is earned and cannot be imposed on people. He went a step further, saying he strongly feels that the existing, decade-old contempt of court laws should be repealed instead of calling for more such legislation.

It remained unclear when the bill would be formally presented to the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. It was also unclear whether the military had played a role in its drafting, something Chaudhry said he suspected.

The military in Pakistan is loved and respected by every Pakistani in spirit, he wrote.

Pakistani activists and journalists have also criticized the planned bill, including Mazhar Abbas, who often reports for Pakistan Independent Geo Television and who wrote on Twitter that people were apparently free to criticize parliament, politicians and the media. but the rest is national interest.

Under the bill, anyone found guilty of intentional mockery of the armed forces by a civilian court will face a two-year sentence, a fine of 500,000 rupees ($ 3,300), or jail and a fine.

The Pakistani military has ruled the country for more than half of its 74-year history since independence from Britain and has been reluctant to see its influence challenged even by elected governments in the fourth political history of these countries.

The nation has seen the downfall of several prime ministers and other cabinet members who faced the military on a range of issues, including those who tried to keep it out of politics.



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