Imaan Mazari, Haris Khalique, Asad Jamal and worthy participants
It gives me a great pleasure to welcome all of you to Islamabad Policy Institute’s webinar on a very important issue – the Punjab Tahaffuz-i-Bunyad-i-Islam Bill 2020.
As you know Punjab Assembly last week passed the Bill and sent it to the governor for his assent. However, the governor referred it back to the provincial legislature for further deliberations and developing consensus.
The Bill in itself is problematic because not only does it have sectarian tones, but it also further stifles intellectual freedom in what is already a very restrictive environment. Religious minorities, I fear, too would suffer because of it.
I fail to understand the purpose of the Bill because the objectives of preventing sacrilege and curbing sectarianism are covered by various other legal provisions like Section 298-A of the PPC, and Section 8 of the Anti-Terrorism Act just to name a few.
In this situation it appears that the purpose of the sponsors of the Bill was nothing but to appease the religious right wing.
But, its consequences are very serious. Besides, making life difficult for religious and sectarian minorities, it can potentially stoke sectarian tensions in the country and promote extremism. That’s something Pakistan can ill afford at this stage.
With these few observations, I would leave it to our legal experts to deliberate on the various aspects of this law, which would now be reviewed by Punjab Assembly. I feel that there is a need for a sustained pressure to ensure that the controversial provisions are at least removed.
Thanks for participating in today’s webinar. I look forward to a fruitful discussion.