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PPP feels ‘left out’ from budget, defamation law discussions – Pakistan

LAHORE: The PPP has openly expressed its concerns over a lack of consultation by the Punjab government on critical issues, such as the budget and the recently-promulgated defamation law.

Though the PPP is not formally part of a coalition government in the province since the PML-N enjoys a simple majority, it has supported the ruling party in the assembly during the legislative business.

PPP Central Punjab general secretary Syed Hassan Murtaza referred to this agreement on Monday when he said that his party didn’t vote for the PML-N “to prepare the budget in the kitchen”.

“You did not take PPP into confidence while preparing the budget proposals,” he said, addressing Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif at a press conference.

Murtaza says his party didn’t support Punjab govt for ‘solo decision making’; LHC to hear challenges to controversial act today

He claimed that this would be the first budget where the government didn’t take its allies and stakeholders into confidence.

No relief plan has been announced so far for the salaried class and pensioners in the budget, said the PPP leader.

He added that “PPP had high expectations” from CM Maryam that she would take the province forward as per the vision of her father, Nawaz Sharif.

However, he regretted that farmers, who form the country’s backbone, were suffering because of the Punjab government’s policies.

The provincial agriculture department “could not formulate a comprehensive policy” to procure wheat before the sowing started, and the indecision left the growers in a lurch after they toiled hard and reaped a bumper crop.

Mr Murtaza asked if the government would compensate the farmers for its delayed decision not to procure wheat this season.

‘No intention to join govt’

Referring to the Punjab Defamation Act 2024, the PPP leader said his party stood with journalists.

“The party is not in favour of restricting the freedom of expression. We’ll try to get the law withdrawn because we cannot become part of any anti-media law.”

He announced that his party would go to court against the law and the move, and the PPP high command would make a decision in this regard.

A day ago, PTI also announced challenging the law which has been severely criticised by political parties, civil society members and journalists.

He clarified that PPP was not involved in the drafting or the enactment of the law and rather tried to address stakeholders’ concerns.

In response to a question about formally joining the provincial government, Mr Murtaza added that any decision in this regard would be taken by PPP’s Central Executive Committee and at present, “there is no such intention”.

LHC fixes appeal

In a related development, the Lahore High Court (LHC) registrar has fixed the appeal against the Punjab Defamation Act 2024 for hearing.

A single-member bench comprising Justice Muhammad Amjad Rafiq will take up the matter today (Tuesday).

The challenge has been filed by journalists Riaz Ahmad Raja and Jaffar Ahmad Yar through Advocate Nadeem Sarwar on the grounds that the law was “in sheer violation” of the fundamental rights protected in the Constitution.

Earlier, the registrar’s office completed the scrutiny process after the petitioners furnished the gazette notification that was issued today.

The petition argued that instead of drafting a new law, the government should have amended the existing laws.

It added that the law had been introduced in haste without consulting journalists, and it aimed to control the media.

The definition of “journalist” and “newspaper” provided in the law was “vague, irrational and ambiguous”.

According to the petition, the law allows for defamation claims to be initiated without any proof, which is a clear violation of Article 10-A of the Constitution, which ensures a “fair trial” for every individual.

The petitioners requested the court to strike down the law for being contrary to fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2024

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