The Law Ministry has finalised punishments for offences under the recently amended Amplifier Act, The Express Tribune has learnt.
A senior police official said on Friday that there would be summary trials of cases registered under the Act. He said the trials would conclude within one or two days. “The punishment for offences under the Act is six months imprisonment and Rs100,000 fine,” the official said.
He said this would enable police to initiate proceedings against those guilty of delivering hate speech and inciting violence by violating the law and flouting the ban on use of loudspeakers. The official said prayer leaders had been informed that they were not allowed to use more than one loudspeaker to give the call to prayer. “They have been told that their voices should not be heard outside the mosque except when calling the azan,” he said.
IGP Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera had earlier said on January 9 that those guilty of inciting people by publishing and distributing hate material, delivering provocative speeches, misusing loudspeakers and facilitating terrorists would be dealt with an iron hand. IGP Sukhera had made the statement while ordering district officials to crackdown on anti-state elements across the province.
Another police official privy to the development told The Express Tribune that general action would be taken against those found guilty of violating the ban rather than targeting specific groups or individuals to prevent inviting the ire of religious extremists.
A religious leader from the Sunni Tehreek (ST) said loudspeakers could only be used under the amended act but different sects including the Ahl-i-Sunnat and the Shias also recited salutations to Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him (PBUH) after giving the call to prayer. He said police had registered cases against prayer leaders for reciting salutations. “This is not an offence,” the religious leader said. He said religious leaders had promised to cooperate with the government with regard to ridding the nation of terrorism. The leader said police had been victimising them despite this.
An official from the Home Department told The Express Tribune said Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had ordered police to verify reports regarding the illegal use of loudspeakers and inspect hate material before registering cases against religious leaders. He said the directive had been issued at a meeting between Sharif and the IGP. The IGP had issued a directive saying that reciting salutations before and after giving the call to prayer should not be considered an offence. He had also instructed DPOs to ensure that complaints had been verified by DSPs before the registration of cases. Another senior police official said a majority of prayer leaders had been cooperating with the police. He said they tended to assure police that they would act according to law in the future if any warning was issued to them. Operations DIG Haider Ashraf said 613 cases had been registered and 680 people had been arrested since January 9.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2015.
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