ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Saturday announced that two key laws had been forwarded to the Federal Cabinet for approval.

In a tweet, the minister said under the first law, parliamentarians have been allowed to participate in election campaigns, while the second law will ensure punishments to those involved in insulting the dignity of people on social media. Fawad Chaudhary said the courts are required to decide such cases within six months.

Currently, there is a ban on the visits of chief ministers, ministers, governors, announcements of development schemes and inauguration of already approved schemes. After the amendment in the election code of conduct is passed, ministers and parliamentarians can also run election campaigns of candidates. The reason for amendment in the code of conduct cites reservations of all the political parties.

In a related development, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry confirmed to a private TV channel on Saturday that the federal cabinet had given the approval for a presidential ordinance to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), 2016. He said the approval for the ordinance was obtained through circulation. The minister said under the amendments, defaming individuals on social media would be declared a punishable offence and courts would be obliged to give a verdict on cases registered under Peca within six months.

Cabinet approves ordinance to amend social media defamation law, election code of conduct

Information Minister says courts will be required to decide defamation cases within 6 months

Chaudhry shared this earlier in a tweet as well, saying that the federal cabinet’s approval had been sought for the amendments. Peca was passed by the National Assembly in 2016 amid the opposition’s protest.

 

The PML-N, which was in the government at the time, had used its majority to bulldoze the controversial bill. The opposition, meanwhile, criticised the legislation for giving the executive what it called sweeping powers that could be misused against anyone and further curb freedom of expression in the country.

The legislation stated that parody or satire-based websites and social media accounts can be proceeded against on ‘spoofing’, which makes it an offence to run a website or send information with a “counterfeit source”. It also authorised Federal Investigation Agency officers to unlock any computer, mobile phone or other device that may be required for the purpose of investigating a crime or offence, and said that defamation would be treated as a punishable offence.

 

 

Also, another private news channel said that the federal cabinet had amended the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) code of conduct, paving the way for ministers and the parliamentarians to run election campaigns of their favourite candidates in the country. ”All the political parties have reservations over the code of conduct introduced by the ECP,” sources said. The government decided to amend the ECP’s code of conduct through a presidential ordinance.

 

On February 7, the ECP had disqualified Umar Amin Gandapur, brother of Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Ali Amin Gandapur, from contesting local body elections for violating the Code of Conduct announced by the commission for the local government elections in the province.

However, on the next day, the Islamabad High Court had suspended the ECP’s order to disqualify Umar Amin Gandapur from contesting the polls.

The ECP had also directed federal minister Ali Amin Gandapur not to attend any political gathering or corner meeting till the culmination of the polls.

 

Moreover, the ECP had also imposed a fine of Rs40,000 on a Member of the National Assembly belonging JUI-F for violating the code of conduct for the elections as he addressed a press conference in favour of his party’s candidate for Dera Ismail Khan city council.