Experts urge legislation to clarify institutional boundaries

Senior journalist Naveed Hussain argues defamation law contradicts democratic norms

Noman Awan May 23, 2024


The experts emphasised the need for effective legislation to define the boundaries of institutions, strongly condemning the "media ban" and describing the Punjab government's defamation bill as a threat to freedom of expression and democratic values.

"I do not understand how the Supreme Court judge has insulted Parliament, while parliamentarians freely criticise judges from the floor of the house," remarked Naveed Hussain, Chief Editor of The Express Tribune, during the talk show "Experts" on Express News moderated by Dua Jameel.

The seasoned journalist also voiced his concern about the defamation law enacted by the Punjab government, highlighting that it effectively prohibits the media from speaking out against public office holders.

Hussain emphasised that despite disagreement from both the opposition and all media organisations, the defamation law is being introduced, highlighting a clear contradiction to democratic norms.

Read more: Experts warn of ‘institutional conflict’ due to criticism on judiciary

The senior analyst also contended that political parties and politicians have little regard for democracy and democratic institutions. He highlighted the dual policy of politicians, noting that while they talk about the supremacy of Parliament, they simultaneously manipulate and undermine its authority.

"The previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government enacted legislation that effectively turned Parliament into a rubber stamp, while the Supreme Court advocated for its supremacy," he added.

Hussain believes that politicians desire a democracy that safeguards their interests, democratic institutions that bolster their power, and a Parliament in which they hold a significant stake. He stressed that the rule of law is imperative to the supremacy of democracy.

Referring to the past, the senior journalist underscored that before the elections, current government officials were praising the judiciary and advising Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to have faith in the judiciary and the law. Hussain observed that today, when the judiciary gives judgments according to law and conscience, their opinion has changed.

Express News Bureau Chief in Islamabad, Amir Ilyas Rana, cited Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) member Talal Chaudhry's speech in Parliament, where he argued that the law of contempt of court has been abolished globally. Rana proposed that if this assertion holds true, Parliament should follow suit and abolish it in Pakistan through legislation.

He highlighted the disagreement between Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Senator and former President of the Supreme Court Bar, Kamran Murtaza, and his party member, Noor Alam Khan, in Parliament. Rana emphasised that Kamran Murtaza termed the parliamentarians' accusations against the judiciary as a proxy war, despite a member of his own party submitting a bill to abolish the contempt of court law.


Rana believes that the issue lies in organisations unwilling to stay within their designated domains; instead, each one seeks to extend its influence over others. He emphasised that the issue of dual citizenship of judges and parliament members has to be resolved by Parliament through legislation.

He also voiced criticism of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) for issuing notices to the media. Citing insulting remarks against the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court made by Raoof Hasan, PTI spokesperson, Rana expressed concern about PEMRA's actions regarding news channels.

"Call those who have spoken in Parliament. The function or duty of the TV channels is to report. If we exaggerate or fabricate, then it is our fault. Apart from this, we should not be noticed," the Bureau Chief asserted.

Ayaz Khan, Group Editor of Daily Express, remarked on the court notice to Senator Faisal Vawda, noting that while similar notices have been issued in the past, it seems that Parliament has been insulted because it has happened to Vawda.

Khan also criticised Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) MP, Faisal Sabzwari's speech, stating that honour belongs to elected representatives; when you are elected on crutches, your words do not carry weight.

He agreed that there are no limitations for any organisation; everyone is encroaching into each other's domain. He believed that things don't function smoothly that way. He showed his concern over the deteriorated situation and emphasised that the situation has reached such an extent that he doesn’t understand how to fix it.


The senior analyst also concurred with Hussain and Rana that the government is trying to strip the liberty of the media. Khan referred to past speeches by Maryam Nawaz, the chief minister of Punjab, in which she criticised the PTI government and gave assurances to the media for its freedom of expression. However, he noted that today her government enacted a defamation law which is entirely against media freedom.

Regarding the verbal slugfest between the judiciary and parliamentarians, Faisal Husain, the Karachi Bureau Chief for Express News, believes that the elite has been divided for the first time. He cited that in the past, any tension among the aristocracy was controlled and resolved quickly. However, the current tension within the elite is not subsiding, and the eventual outcome remains uncertain.

Faisal raised concern that while contempt of court and contempt of Parliament are being discussed, there has been no discussion to date on the issue of insulting people in this country.

Referring to historical judicial decisions, Faisal stated that the common man has severely suffered from these rulings. He alleged that courts have engaged in political management in every era. Faisal believes that there is a conflict of interests within the judiciary and Parliament, rather than a commitment to the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution.

Express News Bureau Chief in Lahore, Mohammad Ilyas, stressed the importance of institutions refraining from criticising each other. He expressed his belief that the ongoing conflict between the judiciary and Parliament will not lead to any fruitful outcomes and will eventually result in silence.

Ilyas suggested that if parliamentarians have objections, legislation should be enacted to prevent their summoning by the court. Politicians should also refrain from speaking in a manner that undermines the sanctity of institutions, he added.


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