LAHORE: The Punjab government on Thursday promulgated the Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) (Amendment) Ordinance, allowing four external sound systems (loudspeakers) at the places of worship (mosques) in the province.

The ordinance has amended the Punjab Sound Systems Regulation Act, 2015 that was a part of a set of five laws the Punjab government had introduced to curb extremism and terrorism as a part of the National Action Plan announced in the aftermath of the Peshawar Army Public School attack.

This law had allowed just one loudspeaker in mosques (places of worship) and also regulated its usage, providing for punishment for a violation.

Officials said on Thursday, the governor had signed the ordinance. It was likely to be published in the evening or by Friday.

The number of loudspeakers had been increased while accepting the plea that the number does not matter when it comes to misusing the gadget.

The Punjab government had agreed to amend the law early this year to appease the religious circles greatly annoyed with the PML-N for the change of words of the oath of parliamentarians introduced by amending the Elections Reforms Act.

The purpose of the Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) Act 2015 law was “to prevent public nuisance and the voicing of utterances of controversial nature likely to cause public disorder, to regulate, control and prohibit the use of certain sound systems in the province in the interest of environment, public order, decency, and to guard against incitement to terrorism or the commission of any offence.”

One of its articles provided for one external sound system at a place of worship (only) for the purpose of Azan (prayer call), Arabic Khutba (sermon) delivered on Fridays or Eid prayers, announcement of death of a person, besides lost or found (a thing or a person) announcements.

Officials said the new ordinance had allowed use of increased number of loudspeakers at the mosques. The other conditions under which they could be used would remain intact.

An official said the government had promulgated the ordinance after accepting the plea of some religious circles that the restriction on more than one loudspeakers won’t help check incitement to mischief that could be committed by using a single device as well.

Some quoted Ahadith (the Holy Prophet PBUH’s sayings) to demand that Azan should be called in all the four directions, which was not possible with one loudspeaker. Yet another plea was that the restriction of just one loudspeaker at worship places was limited only to Punjab, which was a discrimination.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2018

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