Criminalizing criticism is an ‘absolutely ridiculous idea’, says Fawad Chaudhry

PTI Leader and Minister for Science Mr.Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday said it was “absolutely ridiculous” to criminalize criticism, a day after a lower house committee passed a bill proposing punishment for disrespecting the armed forces.

The minister was responding to a tweet by a senior journalist, who while commenting on the bill passed by the National Assembly committee, taunted that citizens were free to criticise the parliament, politicians and media “but the rest is national interest”.

Fawad wrote that it was an absolutely ridiculous idea to criminalize criticism.

“Respect is earned, [it] cannot be imposed on people,” he added.

The minister further said he strongly believed that instead of introducing new laws to discourage criticism, the laws dealing with contempt of court “should be repealed”.

On Wednesday, an NA committee passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2020, aimed at preventing hatred and disrespectful behavior against the armed forces.

After a detailed discussion, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior recommended that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2020 may be passed by the lower house. The committee’s chairman, Raja Khurram Shahzad Nawaz, broke the 5-5 vote tie by voting in favor of the proposed bill, which was sponsored by PTI lawmaker Amjad Ali Khan.

The bill proposes amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. “The proposed insertion of Section 500A shall penalise the intentional ridiculing and defaming of the Armed Forces of Pakistan or any its member. A person guilty of such offence will be punished with imprisonment for a term up to two years, or fined for up to five hundred thousand rupees.”

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