PPP distances itself from PML-N on defamation bill

Ali Haider Gilani laments party not consulted before introducing the legislation

Afzal Talib May 22, 2024
PPP distances itself from PML-N on defamation bill


As the government continues to find itself under fire from all quarters over the controversial defamation bill, its key ally, the PPP, has decided to part ways with the PML-N over the legislation amid mounting pressures, sources said on Wednesday.

Following clear directives from the top leadership of the party, PPP members have been advised to steer clear of the Punjab Assembly as the controversy brews and the ruling party catches flak from civil society as well as the opposition, sources said.

Meanwhile, Ali Haider Gilani, the parliamentary leader of PPP in the provincial assembly, expressed his dismay over the lack of consultation regarding the recently passed Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024.

Gilani lamented that neither was the party consulted nor informed about the bill's passage. He stressed that the PPP had no desire to be associated with the legislation, which is why members were instructed to not attend the session on the day of its approval.

On that day, Gilani pointed out, not a single PPP member was present in the provincial assembly."PPP has always been a staunch advocate for media freedom.

It has been at the forefront of the struggle for press freedom," Gilani said.Meanwhile, the Judicial Activism Panel (JAP), a self-styled public interest forum based in Lahore, has called on the Punjab government to reconsider the Defamation Bill, 2024.

Read: CPNE rejects contentious defamation bill

JAP described the bill as "draconian," "illogical," and a "violation of the judgments of the superior courts.

"In a letter dated May 21, addressed to the Governor of Punjab and the provincial chief minister, JAP urged these offices to "refrain from giving assent to such a draconian bill without taking into account the viewpoints of stakeholders.

"The letter characterised the bill as "an attempt to snatch the right and freedom of speech," citing it as a clear violation of Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution.JAP said that, before approaching the superior courts, it was providing a fair opportunity for the respective offices and the provincial assembly to reconsider the bill "in the interest of the nation."

Read: Defamation bill bulldozed through PA amid fury

On Monday, the Punjab Assembly pushed through a bill, dismissing all proposed amendments by the opposition amidst protests from the PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council and journalists covering the parliamentary proceedings.

As the bill received approval through a voice vote, members of the SIC tore apart copies in a display of defiance.

Presented by Punjab Finance Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman and endorsed by the Special Committee-1, the bill bypassed standing committees' scrutiny, triggering controversy.

The move came after the PML-N government declined to postpone the voting, even upon journalists' plea for a week's delay.

In response, members of the press gallery staged a walkout, denouncing the bill as an infringement on media freedom, and boycotting further proceedings.


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