ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Mian Raza Rabbani submitted a private members’ bill to the Senate Secretariat, seeking to amend a British colonial-era sedition law Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860.
The bill moved by the PPP leader on Tuesday states that Section 124-A is part of the inherited colonial structure of governance that continues in Pakistan.
“This section was for the natives who had to be kept under control lest they incited rebelling against the masters,” it states.
This law served as a brutal occupying force and today is being applied with increasing regularity to crush political dissent and make the citizen submit to unquestionable obedience, it further states.
“Today, the relationship between the rulers and rules is no longer one of master and subject. Respect for the government cannot be regulated. It arises from the state respect for individual freedom and the ability to govern,” it reads.
Observers believe that Section 124-A is unacceptable in a democracy and is a constraint on the legitimate exercise of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression.
They say dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of robust public debate in a vibrant democracy and should not be construed as sedition.
The Pakistan Penal Code defines sedition as an act that “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards” the government, a crime for which the accused can be awarded life imprisonment.
Interestingly, the same provision exists in the Indian Penal Code as well.
The British, who introduced the law, have themselves abolished the arcane law in their country.
A private member bill is a piece of legislation that any member or a group of members of the Senate formulate on an issue of importance on their own.
The Senate’s rules of business do not put a time limit within which a private member bill after intro-duction must be presented for final voting.
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2020