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pakistan
Thursday Jul 29 2021
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Punjab governor refuses to sign bill allowing arrest of journalists, bureaucrats, lawmakers

A member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines displays a placard during a protest outside Malacanang Palace. — Reuters/File
A member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines displays a placard during a protest outside Malacanang Palace. — Reuters/File

  • Governor says the bill is "contradictory" and "inconsistent" with the Constitution.
  • Says inclusion of the words "excluding media persons" cannot be made in isolation; appended schedule needs amendment, which can only be done through legislation, not a notification.
  • Sources say PM Imran Khan and CM House raised objections, after which the governor refused to sign the bill.


Governor Punjab Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar on Thursday refused to sign the Punjab Privileges (Amendment) Bill, 2021, saying it is "contradictory" and "inconsistent" with the Constitution.

Punjab Assembly lawmakers had last month passed a bill, allowing the Assembly powers to arrest and prosecute journalists, bureaucrats, and lawmakers. The bill was tabled by PPP’s MPA Usman Mehmood as a private member’s bill. 

Even though the bill was not on the agenda, and neither was it sent to the relevant committee to be examined, it was passed by the majority in the House, without much resistance fromOpposition parties.

Governor Punjab Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwars letter.
Governor Punjab Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar's letter. 

Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi had earlier this month notified amendments to the bill after protests by the journalist community, but the journalist community still expressed reservations over it.

Meanwhile, the governor, sending the bill back, made the observation that the inclusion of the words "excluding media persons" cannot be made in isolation. The schedule appended with the Act would also need to be amended "with reference to acts and omissions pertaining to pubiishing and reporting", and this cannot be done with a notification — such an amendment "must be taken up in the domain of legislation".

"The 'bill' also needs to be examined in the context of Articles 8, 10, 10-A, and 25 of the Constitution," he said.

Provisions accorded to the Judicial Committee of the Assembly and the Speaker to try offences and award punishments under the Act "are contradictory to Article 66(3) and Article 10-A of the Constitution", the governor added.

Sources informed Geo News Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister's House had raised objections over the bill, following which, the governor refrained from signing it.