Article 19 of the constitution of Pakistan provides freedom of speech and expression. The Article also stipulates restrictions on certain subjects. The precincts of the said Article also encompass anything against the security and defense of Pakistan. No doubt, the defense sector had always aided the civilian administration in rescuing victims of floods and earthquakes. No one can defame them while acting in their own domain——defending the integrity and glory of Pakistan.
The finger is raised when the they act beyond their domain, influence policy making, get into democratic arena and make decisions on a nod and wink. A recent proposed bill by a member of the ruling party aims to criminalize anything which ridicules or defame the armed forces. Amjad Ali Khan, tabled the criminal law amendment act 2020 on 15 September in National Assembly to amend Pakistan Penal code and Criminal Procedure Code whereby anyone who “intentionally ridicules, brings into disrepute or defames the armed forces of Pakistan or a member thereof will be liable to imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with a fine up to Rupees 5 lac or both”.
Armed forces have always been treated as an exception to the ordinary rule. The notion of National security practically precludes every citizen from fair comment, but the recent proposed law went beyond the parameters enunciated in Article 19 of the constitution. Talking about any member who does not fulfill his/her duties can never be criminalized. If the proposed law becomes enacted, it would leave Article 19 of the constitution in opacity. The said Article of the constitution must also be Amended in order to bring in with conformity with the ordinary law. The legal edifice of Pakistan (Constitution) then shall exempt the armed forces specifically as an alien subject not to be criticized anywhere, in any form, otherwise it would leave a mark of ambiguity in the minds of ordinary citizens.
Written by: Shah Sawar Younas Khan, student of law department in Abdul wali khan university, Mardan