Freedom of criticism

2018-07-14T00:08:43+05:00 Humza Rashid

With immense patience over the conduct of certain elements that have been seen to create democratic instability in the country perhaps for the instant progress and prosperity to people of Pakistan which had long been unseen, had now become apparent of their pernicious conduct and attitude which is prima-facie detrimental to interest of Islamic Republic of Pakistan; and its Constitution.

The recent inimical and reckless take by leaders of certain political parties has not merely caused serious distress among the people of Pakistan but has also beleaguered epiphany over the masses as to whether there is an end-point to such irresponsible and reckless portraying of State Institutions.

Members of Parliament have long lost their way in achieving power and have started to hurl threats on State Institutions. On one side, Ruling Party has tried to bring Judiciary to ridicule for which they rightly face contempt charge as per Article 204 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, whilst on the other side, leader of another Political Party, with eager political flight has lost all the patience and balance.

On 17.01.2018, Mr. Imran Khan cursed the Parliament, a State Institution of and for people of Pakistan through their chosen representatives. Mr. Imran Khan has not cursed the Parliament but this beloved country and its people who have voted for their chosen representatives. All Private Channels kept running the video throughout the day which drew strong criticisms from people from all walks of life, yet silence and inaction on part of Speaker National Assemble or PEMRA is of great concern. Imran Khan as member of the same Parliament enjoying all perks and privileges while referring to approval of Election Act 2017, which matter was than sub-judice before Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan, cursed and flouted the dignity of Parliament which was telecasted and repeated without resile.

Not to forget that previously, Mr. Imran Khan advanced the word ‘Shameful (Sharamnaak)’ to Election Commission and Judiciary and was called for contempt by Supreme Court of Pakistan in case reported as PLD 2014 Supreme Court 367, however, he conveniently escaped out of threat by seeking unconditional apology from the Honorable Court, wherein however, the Honorable Court was pleased to observe as follow:

“Admittedly, Mr. Imran Khan is a public figure and duly elected member of National Assembly/Majlis-e-Shoora of Pakistan, who has not only been actively involved in politics for a considerable period, but is also the Chairman of a political party, P.T.I. In such circumstances, while considering his conduct, we also cannot lose sight of the provision of Articles-19 and 66 of our Constitution, relating to freedom of speech and the privileges of members of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament). Thus, at this juncture, as a note of caution, we may observe that politicians and other public figures having their say and a following amongst the public are expected to use more decent and guarded language and have to be more careful in the selection of words in public gatherings or press conferences so as to show their intellect, maturity of mind and wisdom qua respect to various national institutions, and to present themselves, as role model for the society at large.”

Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of Speech. However, it does not license any person to sabotage the integrity of the State Institutions and freedom of speech is subject to such restrictions as could be legitimately imposed under the law. Article 19, is reproduced herein below:-

“Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the Integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of Court, defamation or incitement to an offence”.

In a democratic system, freedom of speech/expression and freedom of press are the essential requirements of democracy and without this, the concept of democracy cannot survive. However, perusal of Article 19 makes it absolutely clear that above right is not absolute but subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law. Reasonable classification is always permissible and law permits so. But in the light of Article 19, nobody is allowed to ridicule, disrespect or defame any person or Institution. 

Any unconstitutional Act with intent to bring Integrity of Pakistan or its Institutions to disrespect squarely fall under the provision of Treason as enshrined under Article 6 of the Constitution. 

In a similar case, Honorable Lahore High Court in WP 22093-15 titled “Sardar Aftab Ahmad Virk Vs. Prime Minister of Pakistan Etc” which is pari matria to case in hand, after extended hearing on the issue of hazardous and imbalanced speeches by notorious Altaf Hussain as Chief of Mutahida Qomi Movement Party was pleased to direct as follow:

“…In view of the arguments advanced by learned counsel for the petitioner and taking into consideration the submissions made by learned additional attorney general, as well as, learned Additional Advocate General, we are of the considered view that there is sufficient material available on record to issue direction to Chairman Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, to completely black out the activities of Altaf Hussain/Respondent No.9 including hatred speeches, any news regarding his activities, as well as display of his picture on electronic media…”

Regardless of the fact that the notorious Altaf made condemnable speeches against Armed Forces of Pakistan is yet the prestigious Institution of State and it was still an act to bring disgrace to National Institutions. Disrespecting Parliament is akin to disrespecting and bringing to disgrace the very existence of holy mandate of Pakistan; the Constitution. Category of offence here also cannot be taken to condemn without their being use of law to bring such practice down to decimate.

That member of parliament enjoy certain privileges and immunities for his acts performed in or outside the parliament, thus if stern action in peculiar circumstances is not taken against these busybodies, this mischievous culture shall have never ending detrimental effect on image and dignity of Parliament.  Significant to mention here that as per National Assembly Rules vis. Rules Of Procedure And Conduct Of Business In National Assembly 2007, to which each member is bound to comply have been mercilessly violated. Rule 30 of the Rules 2007 ibid are reproduced verbatim for assistance:

“30. Conduct of members while present in the Assembly.-…

(k) shall not act to erode the sanyity of the house or act in manner which lowers the dignity of the house.

Even otherwise, every member while taking oath as member of National Assembly declares on oath that he shall “bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan..”. Same declaration on oath was made by Mr. Imran Khan and his ally yet they have become fearlessly contemptuous in complete disregard of this declaration to the Pivotal Institution of Pakistan.

Parliament is one of the three major pillars of State whilst Constitution and its preamble believes in trichotomy of all three pillars as; Executive, Judiciary and Parliament. Needless to mention that Speaker of House as per vested scheme of Constitution not only administers the Session of National Assembly but is also empowered to hold members of the National Assembly accountable for their action not just in the parliament but also otherwise. However, in the present case neither House or its Joint Sitting or Committee took action against Mr. Imran Khan or his ally who acted in complete disregard and in violation of their Oath, Rules of Assemble or otherwise acted in manner prejudicial to interest as Member of Parliament.

 In Pakistan, respect of the Parliament is often understood narrowly. But it is relevant to note that Parliament is formulated over chosen representatives of the People. Any disrespectful remarks about the parliament are remarks directly attributed to people of Pakistan who voted for their chosen representatives.

Cursing and disrespecting the State Institutions is not acceptable for any patriot, honest, ameen or respectable citizen. Patriotic slogan has remained an essence with every dominate nation which chapter of history is still unread among us.

 

 

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He holds Masters in Law from Northumbria. He can be reached at info@hamzaandhamza.com

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