PPP vows to play role in 'withdrawal' of Punjab defamation law

PML-N-led Punjab govt did not consult allies, stakeholders on budget 2024-25, claims PPP leader

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Web Desk
A representational image of reporters. — AFP/File
  • Citizens, journalists not satisfied with Punjab govt's steps: PPP.
  • Memon says PPP to never compromise on press freedom.
  • Punjab Assembly passed controversial defamation law on May 20.

As Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024, led to protests by opposition, journalists and rights bodies, Pakistan Peoples Party Central (PPP) Punjab General Secretary Syed Hassan Murtaza said on Monday that his party would play its part in the “withdrawal” of the controversial law.

“PPP was neither taken on board regarding the Punjab defamation law nor budget preparations,” Murtaza said while speaking to journalists in Lahore.

He added that the Bilawal-led party’s legal team was working on the disputed legislation and will make efforts to convince the provincial government to withdraw it.

The PPP senior leader claimed that his party was informed about the defamation bill when it was presented before a committee. “PPP was never willing to be part of that legislation,” he added.

He further clarified that Punjab Governor Sardar Saleem Haider’s foreign visit had been planned before the legislation was tabled and passed in the provincial assembly. The bill would have been approved anyhow even if the governor sent it back to the House, he added.

The defamation law had been passed by the interim governor of Punjab which belongs to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said Murtaza.

He claimed that the citizens and the journalists were not satisfied with the Punjab government’s steps despite pinning hopes on better performance from the administration led by Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz.

Murtaza appealed to the provincial government to protect the poor segment from exploitation. He criticised the PML-N-led government for not holding consultations with its allies and stakeholders for the budget 2024-25.

He alleged that the Punjab government failed to table a comprehensive plan for addressing the issues of the labourers, salaried persons, students and other segments in the budget proposals.

Commenting on the Punjab defamation bill, another PPP leader and Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said that his party’s Punjab governor did not sign the controversial law. He added that the PPP would never introduce a bill that would compromise the press freedom.

He blamed the former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government led by ousted prime minister Imran Khan for introducing same genre of law which was named after the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) during his tenure in the name of legislating against harassment and hate speeches.

Memon said that his party is firmly standing for press freedom and the journalist fraternity.

He detailed that the PPP government took stern actions against those who tried to target the journalists — including the slain journalists Wali Khan Babar, Aziz Memon and Nasrullah Gadani — and arrested all culprits behind the killings.

The Sindh minister signalled that the murderers of another martyred journalist Jan Mohammad Mahar would also be arrested soon.

Yesterday, Governor Haider had said that the PPP was against the controversial defamation law passed by the provincial legislature.

“I tried to stop the [passage] of the defamation bill as governor,” he said while speaking to the media in Dubai on Sunday. His statement came a day after interim Punjab Governor Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan signed the bill into law in the absence of Haider.

The Punjab Assembly, on May 20, passed the Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024 amid a strong and noisy protest by the opposition as well as immense backlash from journalists and rights bodies including those based internationally.

A day earlier, the central Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the media bodies announced boycotting the coverage of government affairs including official events, such as National Assembly and provincial assembly sessions and upcoming federal and provincial budgets to protest the approval of the defamation law