LAHORE: The Punjab cabinet of Maryam Nawaz on Friday approved a ‘fresh legal action’ (new cases) against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) founding chairman Imran Khan and other party leaders for their alleged involvement in manufacturing a ‘narrative of hate’ against state institutions, especially the army.

“The Punjab cabinet has approved a legal action against former prime minister Imran Khan and his other party leaders for building hate-narrative against the state institutions,” Punjab Information Minister Azma Bokhari told a presser after the cabinet meeting, which was presided over by Maryam Nawaz.

She said Mr Khan had constantly been building a narrative against the state institutions. “He is trying to become Mujeebur Rehman by doing so. Those who meet him in (Adiala) jail follow suit. Therefore, the Punjab cabinet has decided to take action against them,” she explained.

The minister said the Punjab home department would soon take steps in this regard.

Home dept to take action; Azma claims governor criticised defamation bill ‘without reading it’

Asked about whether new FIRs against Mr Khan and others would be lodged for their alleged ‘anti-state narrative’, she said: “The home department will take measures.”

The cabinet’s decision has come in the wake of a fresh tension between the government and the PTI. A day before the authorities in Islamabad demolished a part of the PTI central office.

Sources privy to the development told Dawn that the Maryam administration had authorised an SP-rank officer to register an FIR against incarcerated Khan for his tirade against the military for the 1971 episode. He is also being accused of launching a tirade against state institutions and their heads.

“This is the first time that the Punjab government has decided to take permission from the full cabinet presided over CM Maryam to lodge a fresh FIR against Mr Khan. Earlier, the permission to launch FIRs in May 9 violence incidents were granted by the cabinet committee on law and order,” sources said.

Sources said a complaint against Mr Khan was filed by an Islamabad-based journalist who had presented different clips, audios, interviews and newspaper cuttings to support his claim regarding Khan’s anti-state narrative. “The journalist, whose name is currently being kept secret, has levelled allegations that the PTI founder chairman had also launched a tirade against state institutions as well as their heads. Mr Khan had written and sent an anti-Pakistan article from jail to a British newspaper according to the journalist’s complaint,” they said.

Defamation bill

At the news conference, Ms Bokhari also criticised Punjab Governor Saleem Haider Khan for “not reading” the Defamation Bill 2024 before declaring to return it to the provincial assembly. “If the governor has not read the bill, allow me to make him read that,” she said.

The Punjab Assembly had passed the Defamation Bill, 2024, rejecting all amendments proposed by the opposition amid protests by the PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council and journalists.

The governor had taken exception to the bill and proposed that all stakeholders should be taken on board before its enactment. The draft law proposes a special tribunal to try those involved in drafting, publishing and/or airing “fake news”. The tribunal shall decide cases within six months, while in cases against individuals holding constitutional posts, high court will hear the cases.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2024

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