ISLAMABAD - Former chairman Senate and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stalwart Mian Raza Rabbani Thursday said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, the federation and the state should avoid alleging their political opponents as traitors and charging them with sedition.

“The game of calling those who struggle for the rule of law as traitors, must end now,” said Senator Rabbani. He added that Pakistani state must realize that they were “living in 2020 and not in 1947 when the narrative of traitor was used to suppress the people.” 

Earlier this week, the Lahore police had registered a case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other top leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on sedition and other charges on a complaint of a citizen. However, PTI’s both federal and Punjab governments while distancing themselves said that they were not involved in registration of this case. 

PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said that in the given internal and international situation, such a narrative would have far reaching consequences for the federation.  He recalled that the historic rot of calling opponents ‘traitor’ and charging them with sedition was from the British Raj. 

He said that Pakistan’s colonial state structures, which continue till date, have used this mantra ruthlessly against those who dissent from their centrist and authoritarian agenda. 

FIR (against ex-PM Nawaz Sharif over sedition charges) should be disposed of by declaring it ‘C’ class

“All those who question the power structure of the ruling elite, be they; politicians, nationalists, intellectuals, academia, students, labourers or civil society members, have been dubbed as traitors or security risks.” 

Till now ‘the traitors’ were confined to Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but for the first time, a part of Punjab’s elite is so targeted which will have its own political and historical consequences, he also said. 

Former chairman Senate said that the federal cabinet cannot talk out the responsibility of the case registered in Lahore. Section 196 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 1898 provides for prosecution of sedition charges, he added. “No court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under Chapter VI of Pakistan Penal Code……… unless upon complaint made by order of, or under authority from the Federal Government or the Provincial Government concerned, or some officer empowered in this behalf by either of the two governments,” he said while quoting the relevant section. 

The veteran legislator pointed out that Supreme Court has already ruled that government means the Federal or Provincial Cabinet. He added that there is a string of judgements of the Supreme and high courts on the question of prior sanction.

In such circumstances, the individual (s) who, if correct, acted on their own, need to be identified and enquired as to what was the motivational factor behind him,” he said while referring to the complainant in the sedition case.   Rabbani urged the government that it should support the ‘Private Member Bill’ moved by himself that seeks to amend the colonial-era sedition law Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), 1860. The bill is pending before the Standing Committee of the Senate. 

“The Senate of Pakistan, internally and externally, is in a fragile position and the Federation cannot afford destabilization. The FIR (first information report) should be disposed of by declaring it ‘C’ Class,” he concluded.