Punjab Assembly resolution seeks most stringent anti-blasphemy laws

Published January 1, 2020
The resolution was presented by Mines Minister Ammar Yasir. — APP/File
The resolution was presented by Mines Minister Ammar Yasir. — APP/File

LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution asking the federal government to make new or improve existing laws to sternly punish blasphemers and set up a Saudi Arabia like central screening or filtration system to intercept blasphemous material on social media.

The session of the Punjab Assembly prorogued sine die when PTI and PML-N members were hurling accusations against the leadership of each other, disallowing Law Minister Raja Basharat to give any assurance to PPP’s Hasan Murtaza who sought action against sugar mills in his hometown which had prematurely ended crushing of sugarcane to blackmail the growers.

The resolution was presented by Mines Minister Ammar Yasir. It said there existed anti-blasphemy laws in the country but they were not being enforced in letter and spirit, allowing some people to commit blasphemy in the garb of freedom of expression and hurt feelings of Muslims.

It said blasphemous content was available on social media and also in the international print and electronic media. Some importers too were importing books containing such material, hurting the feelings of Muslims not only in Pakistan but also abroad.

“Therefore, this house demands the immediate establishment of a Saudi Arabia like central filtration and screening system to prevent blasphemous content. Laws should immediately be made to prevent printing and sale of local or foreign religious books without the certification of Muthidda Ulema Board and the federal religious affairs ministry, also disallowing presentation of such material in regular and social media.

“The books containing blasphemous material should immediately be confiscated and their import be disallowed. The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and PP’s Sections 295 and 298 should be improved and enforced to award deterrent punishment to the blasphemers.”

Meanwhile, the PML-N and PTI members hurled accusations against each other after latter’s Nadeem Qureshi congratulated the chief minister and the law minister for enacting largest number of laws ever in the assembly in 2019. He also declared Mr Buzdar as the humblest and most decent chief minister ever.

He did so when PPP’s Murtaza narrated the blackmailing of the sugar millers, seeking action against them for stopping crushing sugarcane before the culmination of the season and despite assurances of the government, crushing growers instead.

Some PML-N MPAs stood up to confront Mr Qureshi, and began a match of exchange of accusation between them. The chair beckoned Mr Basharat to reply to Mr Murtaza who promised an action against the millers but also became emotional and said PML-N leaders were the only court certified thieves in the country.

This added fuel to the fire, leaving Mr Murtaza in the lurch. The chair in the meantime extended New Year greetings to the members, staff and the Press gallery and prorogued the session indefinitely.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2020

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