ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday gave its assent to enhancement of punishments over violations of the Ehteram-i-Ramazan Ordinance, increasing penalties for violating the sanctity of the holy month and mandating the closure of cinemas and theatres during fasting hours.

The cabinet, which met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the chair, ratified the recommendations of the Cabinet Committee for Disposal of Legislative Cases (CCLC) in respect of Ehteram-i-Ramazan (Amendment) Bill, 2017, according to an official handout issued by the Prime Minister Office.

The Ehteram-i-Ramazan Bill had been introduced in the Senate by Senator Chaudhry Tanvir Khan of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) exactly a year ago on Jan 16. It sought amendments to the Ehteram-i-Ramazan Ordinance 1981 that had been promulgated by former military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq to provide measures to observe sanctity in Ramazan.

According to the bill, the fine on the person found eating, drinking or smoking at a public place during the fasting hours will be increased from Rs500 to Rs5,000, while the fine on the owners of hotels, restaurants or canteens “knowingly and willfully” serving food during the fasting hours will be raised from Rs500 to Rs50,000.

However, the bill will extend to the Islamabad Capital Territory only, as the provinces have their own laws in this regard.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons attached to the bill states that recently it has been observed that some cinemas in Islamabad have screened movies even during the fasting hours in the month of Ramazan and, therefore, “this amendment strives to make the existing law more effective”.

The federal cabinet also approved an amendment to the Schedule of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Act, 1974 which will include certain offences under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) — if committed through cyber/electronic means/IT systems — in the schedule of the FIA act.

The cabinet approved the signing of an MoU between the Associated Press of Pakistan Corporation and the Bahrain News Agency.

It also approved the appointment of a CEO/MD of Pakistan LNG Ltd.

The cabinet deferred the ratification of CCLC’s recommendations on an amendment to the Loans for Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Purposes Rules, 1973. A committee was constituted to review the rules and submit recommendations within two weeks.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2018