PPP criticises Punjab govt’s lack of consultation on key issues

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has raised serious concerns regarding the Punjab government’s decision-making process, particularly criticising the lack of consultation on significant matters like the provincial budget and the newly enacted defamation law.

Although the PPP is not formally part of the coalition government, as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) holds a simple majority in the Punjab Assembly, the PPP has supported the ruling party in legislative activities. However, this informal alliance seems strained due to recent developments.

At a press conference, PPP Central Punjab General Secretary Syed Hassan Murtaza expressed disappointment over the Punjab government’s approach to the budget preparation. “You did not take PPP into confidence while preparing the budget proposals,” Murtaza stated, addressing Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

He emphasised that this was unprecedented, marking the first time the government neglected to consult its allies and stakeholders on budgetary matters.

Murtaza also highlighted the absence of relief measures for the salaried class and pensioners in the budget. He noted the PPP’s high expectations from CM Maryam Nawaz Sharif to lead the province forward in line with her father, Nawaz Sharif’s vision. Furthermore, he criticised the government’s agricultural policies, which he claimed have left farmers in a difficult position due to the lack of a comprehensive wheat procurement strategy.

Opposition to the Punjab Defamation Act 2024

Addressing another contentious issue, the Punjab Defamation Act 2024, Murtaza asserted the PPP’s stance against the law, which is seen as a threat to press freedom. “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 We’ll try to get the law withdrawn because we cannot become part of any anti-media law,” he declared. Murtaza announced that the PPP plans to challenge the law in court, with the party’s high command set to make the final decision.

This opposition aligns with the stance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which also announced its intention to challenge the law. Critics, including political parties, civil society, and journalists, argue that the law undermines media freedom and was enacted without adequate consultation.

Legal challenge to the defamation law

In a related legal development, the Lahore High Court (LHC) has scheduled a hearing on the appeal against the Punjab Defamation Act 2024. A single-member bench led by Justice Muhammad Amjad Rafiq will review the case today. The challenge, filed by journalists Riaz Ahmad Raja and Jaffar Ahmad Yar through Advocate Nadeem Sarwar, contends that the law violates fundamental constitutional rights.

The petitioners argue that the law was introduced hastily without amending existing legislation or consulting with journalists, and it seeks to control the media. They highlight the vague and ambiguous definitions of “journalist” and “newspaper” within the law and claim that it allows for defamation claims without proof, violating Article 10-A of the Constitution, which guarantees a fair trial.

The petitioners have urged the court to strike down the law for being contrary to the constitutional rights of citizens.

Future of PPP in provincial governance

Despite the tensions, Murtaza clarified that the PPP’s decision regarding formally joining the provincial government rests with the party’s Central Executive Committee. “There is no such intention at present,” he stated, indicating that the PPP’s future role in the provincial governance remains uncertain.

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