The Punjab Assembly of Pakistan has recently passed a law banning all kinds of books or other publications which include ‘Allah, the Prophet of Islam, Prophets of other religions, Holy Books, Righteous Caliphs, Companions There will be no insulting, critical or derogatory material about angels, Ahlul Bayt.
It has been named as Punjab Protection of Foundation of Islam Act 2020 and according to the law, wherever the name of the last prophet of Islam will be written in the books, first Khatam-un-Nabiyyin and then in Arabic script, peace be upon him. It will be necessary to write.
The Punjab government is calling the passage of the law a “historic step” and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Bazdar has said in a message that “the implementation of this law has led to hate speech about religions (especially Islam) in various books.” Content will be prevented.
However, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has “warned the Punjab Assembly that it is inciting prejudice”.
A large part of this law deals with restrictions that have nothing to do with Islam or religion.
The new law stipulates that any material that “threatens the ideology of Pakistan or the sovereignty, integrity and security of Pakistan” will be banned.
At the same time, it has been said that such material will not be published “which is against moral values and culture or promotes obscenity or pornography etc.”
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All books and materials that promote terrorism or terrorists and extremism, etc., or that pose a threat to sectarianism, violence and hatred, and the deteriorating law and order situation are also banned.
The Punjab Information and Broadcasting Corporation has been given wide powers to scrutinize books and to allow or not to publish published materials, including raids on printing presses, seizure of materials, investigation and scrutiny of financial accounts. Options like
What Is In The New Law?
Under the new law, there are two different types of punishments. A punishment will only be given for violating section 3F of the law, which will be under the current criminal code.
Section 3F of the Punjab Foundation for the Protection of the Foundations of Islam Act is the only section which deals with Islam, which makes it mandatory to use Islamic titles with the names of holy persons.
The law provides for imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of up to Rs. 500,000.
Sub-sections 5 to 11 of section 8 of the law repeat the terms of section 3F once again, but this section refers to the rules and regulations for national and international books.
The HRCP statement also said that “there is ample reason to expect that Section 3F of the new law will be used to target religious minorities and sects.”
What Powers Have Been Given To The Information And Broadcasting Corporation?
The Directorate General of Public Relations, Information and Broadcasting Department of the Punjab Government has been empowered in the new law to:
- After raiding and inspecting any printing press and bookstore, any book can be confiscated with reference to any material whether it has just been published or not.
- He will be able to determine any action or omission in this regard by investigating and inquiring
- He will be able to check the records and accounts of the printing press on the spot or compel him to present those records in the office of his appointed representative.
- He will be able to transfer his powers to any officer
However, the powers of the DGPR do not end here. In the new law, it will be central to the implementation of almost all orders.
According to the powers given to the DGPR to regulate national and foreign books in Section 8 of the Act:
- No person shall publish, publish or import any book or material which has been previously published or broadcast in Pakistan or abroad without the permission of DGPR.
- To publish or publish any book or material, the DGPR has to apply on a form
- Under section one of the law, if the book or material is against the national interest, civilization, religious and sectarian harmony, the DGPR will refuse to allow it.
- The DGPR will be required to send any book or material related to religion to the Muttahida Ulema Board under sections one and three of the law.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has termed it unacceptable for the DGPR to be empowered to decide whether any material is objectionable or not.
Will The Restrictions Be Limited To Books Only?
The definition of ‘book’ in the new law is not limited to books. According to this definition, wherever the word book is used in law, it means “every skin or part of the skin and pamphlet in any language.”
‘Charts or plans based on music, logos, maps that have been individually reprinted or reprinted or reproduced or made on lithographs or any other soft format on discs and similar digital and electronic devices I was made. ‘
However, they will not include newspapers, magazines, journals, magazines, newsletters and textbooks.
Books Will Be Accounted For
Under the law, the DGPR will create a catalog that will be based on the books it receives under the law and will include all the facts about the book. Each book will be assigned a unique number.
The books will be printed only by registered printers and each book publisher will be required to submit a memorandum of printed books to the designated officer every three months.
Similarly, the importer of books will be required to submit a memorandum of imported books to the concerned officer within 15 days of import.
According to the HRCP statement, “they are concerned that such measures will restrict not only freedom of expression but also freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
‘Power Is Always Afraid Of The Book’
A statement issued by HRCP Chairperson Dr. Mehdi Hassan said that in Pakistan, Section 505 (2) of the Criminal Code and Section 8 of the Anti-Terrorism Act are already against racial and sectarian hatred. There are penalties.
“The intent of this new legislation is like a stereotype of burning books.”
Speaking to the BBC, News Mag Harris Khaliq, HRCP general secretary and poet and intellectual, said such measures were nothing new in Pakistan but their results had never been good.
As he puts it, “Power is not afraid of another power, but power is always afraid of books, music or literature that is revolutionary.”
He said that the far-reaching consequences of such measures are crushed by the wheel of history but its immediate consequences create problems for the society.
Why Did The Government Want To Bring This Law?
The Punjab government says the law was needed to prevent incidents such as insulting religion and holy figures. Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi while approving the law said that in the past such incidents have been pointed out by the members of the Assembly in the form of resolutions.
“These resolutions were also passed and now we have legislated on it. Hopefully, after this law, religious and sectarian aggression will decrease.”
He suggested that the federation and other provinces should follow Punjab’s example in this regard.
‘Banning Books Is Not The Answer’
Regarding the ban on books, historian and author Dr. Mubarak Ali said, “People should have the right to decide for themselves whether to read a book or not or reject it.” Banning a book is not the answer.
He said that various terms used in the law are such that they have not been defined and cannot be defined. In this way they can be used to achieve the desired results.
Dr. Mubarak said that the ban on books would stop the process of creation in Pakistan which was already suffering from problems and people were not writing books.
“It’s basically an attempt to stop the younger generation from reading modern and progressive literature,” he said. Do they want to read only fiction books?
Writer and playwright Amna Mufti told the BBC, that no new literature was being created in Pakistan anyway. ‘So who do they want to scare? They are basically afraid of the digital space and want to control it.