Amplifier Act violations: For clerics, cops use ‘book and forget’ policy

Clerics say target should be hate speech only and not include loudspeaker use

Rizwan Shehzad December 20, 2014

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Police have arrested only three of the 193 clerics booked for amplifier act violations in the year to date.

Police officials say the government has taken a lenient view as it is “a sensitive matter”. Clerics and religious organisation, on the hand, maintain that cases should have been registered against hate speech and not “simply using loudspeakers”.

The District administration and the police had set a simple rule for all --- use of loudspeakers is allowed only with explicit permission, which these clerics failed to get.

This year marked the first time that the authorities actually went ahead and booked a significant number of violators of the Amplifier Act.

The authorities were spurred into action by violent clashes in Rawalpindi on Ashura in Nov 2013. The violence was allegedly instigated by hate speech on loudspeakers.

A total of 153 cases had been registered against 193 clerics in the four zones of the city — City, Saddar, Industrial Area and Rural — till November this year. The Sabzi Mandi police registered 17 cases, followed by Shahzad Town with 13, Aabpara with 12 and Lohi Bher with 11 cases. Ramna Police Station registered the fewest cases — three.

Out of 57 clerics booked in the Rural zone, which comprises six police stations — Bani Gala, Nilore, Shahzad Town, Koral, Lohi Bher and Sihala — only one was arrested, while two out of 56 were detained by the City zone, which includes Aabpara, Kohsar, Secretariat and Bhara Kahu police stations.

An example of the ‘book and forget’ policy is Maulana Ashfaq of the Masjid-e-Bilal in G-6/3. He had been booked under the Amplifier Act, but told The Express Tribune that he was unaware he had ever been charged since nobody ever came to arrest him.

Ashfaq said that action should be taken against those who spread hate speech through loudspeakers and not for using loudspeaker for Friday sermons. He readily admitted to using loudspeakers during Muharram without prior permission from the administration.

“Cases should also be registered against hate speech, with or without loudspeaker,” said Qamar Zaidi, a spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-e-Jafria (TNFJ). Zaidi said that the authorities were quick to book clerics, but took no action against “people on containers” using loudspeakers for months.

Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) Islamabad spokesperson Hafiz Oneeb Farooqi said that the party would favour any action taken in accordance with law, adding that the authorities moved in the right direction and that the law must be applied to everyone. “Registration of cases against violators of the laws is appreciable,” he said.

ASI Muhammad Iqbal of the Aabpara Police Station, who has been assigned a few of such cases, said that arrests would soon be made. He said that “public sentiments” play an important role in such cases and cited it as the main reason for the low number of arrests in these cases so far.

The law directs the authorities concerned to take strict measures against people misusing loudspeakers, publishing hate literature and fanning sectarianism.

It states that those misusing loudspeakers are liable to a maximum of one-year in prison, a maximum fine of Rs50,000, or both.

Police high-ups including IG, AIG, and SSP were not available for comment.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2014. 


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