Punjab legislators regret voting for Tahaffuz bill

Published August 8, 2020
Both treasury and opposition lawmakers of Punjab Assembly say they lent support without reading the draft. — APP/File
Both treasury and opposition lawmakers of Punjab Assembly say they lent support without reading the draft. — APP/File

LAHORE: A bill passed unanimously by Punjab Assembly members just two weeks ago is being opposed by the same lawmakers, both from treasury and opposition benches, admitting they voted for it without reading the document.

Opponents, including some ministers, of the bill stood on their seats when assembly proceedings resumed after a one-day break here on Friday to protest against the Tahaffuz Bunyad-i-Islam (protection of foundation of Islam) Bill passed by the house on July 22.

Treasury members called the piece of legislation a conspiracy against the PTI government.

Ruling PTI legislator Hussain Jehanian Gardezi demanded that the government amend the bill with the approval of the Federal Shariat Court, while Law Minister Muhammad Basharat Raja assured the house that no further progress on the bill would be made until a consensus among the members.

Say they lent support without reading the draft

PML-N’s Pir Ashraf Rasool claimed that the bill had been passed on the advice of Shehzad Akbar, special advisor to the prime minister, while PTI MPA Yawar Abbas Bukhari sought forgiveness from the house for supporting the bill.

Taking part in the debate many lawmakers alleged that they were kept into dark about the document when it was put to vote. Arguing that the house couldn’t direct any person which sect one should belong to, they asserted that the bill would fan sectarian divides in the province.

They demanded recalling and amending the bill by seeking recommendations from a committee of clerics comprising all schools of thought.

Treasury members said if the bill had been tabled as official business, cabinet’s approval for the same should be shown to them and if it was passed as a private member bill, which standing committee vetted the document.

PPP parliamentary leader Syed Hassan Murtaza, who was member of the committee, also disowned the bill admitting that he was part of the panel but had not been informed about its vetting process.

At this the law minister said that objections to the bill had been raised after its approval and that’s why it was not sent to the governor for signing it into law.

He said the opinion of the clerics would be elicited for amending the law to remove reservations of all and assured the house that no further progress on the bill would be made until developing a complete consensus among the lawmakers.

The minister also taunted the legislators that it was their duty to thoroughly read each bill before going to vote for or against it.

Later, Raja Basharat also briefed Prime Minister Imran Khan about the controversy on the bill and the steps the government would take to remove reservations about it.

The Punjab Tahaffuz Bunyad-e-Islam Bill 2020 Speaker Chaudhry Parvaiz Elahi claimed credit for, makes publishing of objectionable and/or hate-material punishable.

It also binds all publishers to submit at least five copies of each edition of the book they publish with the Directorate General of Public Relations, which has been empowered to inspect printing presses, book stores and publishing houses, and confiscate before or after printing of books containing such contents.

The DGPR may also investigate, assess or ascertain any act of omission involved in the matter, check record and books of accounts of the publisher on the spot or at any designated office.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2020

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