LAHORE: The opposition to Punjab’s newly enacted defamation law has become more pronounced as the PTI has announced its intention to challenge it in court, even threatening to join journalists in their agitation.

Addressing a press conference on Sunday to chargesheet PML-N’s Punjab government on the completion of its 100 days, PTI leader Malik Ahmed Khan Bhachar said the issue also “exposed” PPP, who he accused of lending tacit support to the law.

“We are with the media on this issue as the PPP stands exposed by its tacit support for the bill,” he said.

Mr Bhachar, who is also the opposition leader in Punjab Assembly, claimed Governor Sardar Saleem Haider went abroad “to provide an opportunity to the speaker to become acting governor and sign the bill into law”.

He said his party would invite journalists to deliberate on the issue and take the matter to court.

Opposition leader Ahmed Bhachar alleges PPP ‘tacitly’ supported the bill; claims attack on one institution ‘isn’t attack on the state’

When asked about PTI’s attempt to introduce a similar defamation law during its last government in the province, Mr Bhachar said his party’s government backtracked after protests from journalists and civil society.

“But the incumbent rulers have disregarded the reservations of the journalists and social media users.”

For most part of his press conference, Mr Bhachar criticised the performance of Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif and her government in the first 100 days.

He raised questions over the new projects climbed by the government and accused it of taking credit for PTI’s initiatives by renaming them.

“Which new project has been executed, and what allocation has been made by the TikTok government during this period,” Mr Bhachar asked, hinting that the government was more focused on improving its image on social media.

He went on to add that PTI’s Kisan Card has been renamed as Nawaz Sharif Kisan Card as if it’s being financed by the CM’s father.

Similarly, the previous PTI government started revamping the province’s hospitals and conceived the idea of introducing an air-ambulance service, Mr Bhachar claimed.

About the new cancer hospital planned to be set up in Lahore, the opposition leader said PML-N’s government only earmarked Rs300 million against the tall claims of Rs30 billion for the project.

The PTI leader censured the Punjab government over its wheat procurement policy, which “destroyed” farmers and “crashed the market”.

The growers have been forced to sell their produce for Rs2,000 per maund, he claimed.

‘State isn’t one institution’

In the context of the May 9 attacks on military installations, Mr Bhachar asserted that “an attack on any institution is not an attack on the state”.

“We are being repeatedly accused of attacking the state … Let me explain that under Article 7 [of the Constitution], the state is parliament and people and not any institution.”

He decried that PTI leaders and elected representatives were being rearrested in new cases soon after their release on bail from prisons.

He reiterated his party’s demand for a judicial inquiry into the event of May 9.

When asked about the possibility of talks with the government, he said it would only happen if “PTI’s mandate manipulated through Form 47s” was returned.

Reacting to the opposition leader’s presser, Punjab Information Minister Azma Bukhari said the CM “introduced 42 public interest projects”, including a Rs30 billion Ramazan package, during her first 100 days in power.

She said the Sehat Card was introduced by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2015 and the PTI government “had adopted it with minor adjustments”.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2024

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