New Delhi: The Lahore high court has struck down Pakistan’s sedition law, saying that it is inconsistent with the Pakistani constitution.
The Section 124 A of the Pakistan Penal Code has thus been invalidated.
The exact same section in the Indian Penal Code deals with sedition, a law which Indian activists and even the Supreme Court has multiple times expressed reservations over, noting that it can be used unfairly by the state against dissenters. In 2022, the Supreme Court of India put the sedition law in abeyance, while the Union government reconsiders whether it should exist.
In Pakistan, as in India, the law’s origins are in the colonial era and thus the law seeks to punish disaffection against the government.
According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, the Lahore high court’s verdict came from Justice Shahid Karim who heard identical petitions seeking to annul the sedition law.
One of the pleas, by one Haroon Farooq, notes that the sedition law derogates several fundamental rights of freedom under the Pakistan constitution.
He also alleged that the law has been used “recklessly” in Pakistan, served as a “notorious tool for the suppression of dissent,” and also curbed the right to free speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Pakistani constitution.
Various politicians, journalists and activists were booked under the sedition law in just the past few years alone.
Among those booked is former Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose neighbourhood was recently the scene of a showdown between protesters and forces which tried to arrest Khan over his and his party’s demand that the government announce national elections.
Farooq’s petition noted the case of Khan’s aide Shahbaz Gill along with those of former lawmaker Mohsin Dawar, Ali Wazir from Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, and a host of journalists like Arshad Sharif, Khawar Ghumman, Adeel Raja and Sadaf Abdul Jabbar.
An editorial by The News in Pakistan said on the development:
“The petitions would not be wrong in that we have seen how – from Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Habib Jalib to Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari to a whole set of journalists, activists, civil rights leaders – there is an unending list of people who have been charged under this law for having had the temerity to speak up against the power setup of the time. Gandhi had once called sedition as having been “designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen” – and this is what it has been for citizens in Pakistan.”