Pushback Against ‘Draconian’ PECA Ordinance Gains Momentum

Pushback Against ‘Draconian’ PECA Ordinance Gains Momentum
Pushback against the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) ordinance recently promulgated by the government has increased with civil society and lawyer groups terming the new ordinance 'draconian.' The Islamabad High Court's ruling earlier today wherein Justice Athar Minallah ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) not to make any arrests under the new ordinance has given rise to the hope that the government would not be allowed to implement the draconian measure.

Just days after President Asif Alvi promulgated the ordinance, the IHC halted the FIA from conducting arrests under Section 20 of the ordinance in response to a petition filed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).  IHC Chief Justice Minallah remarked that defamation laws for public representatives should not exist in the first place.

The PFUJ had filed a petition with the Islamabad High Court a day earlier challenging the ordinance, arguing that the government had tried to "sneak amendments to existing laws at the eleventh hour" without seeking input or approval from the upper house of Parliament, which had met earlier in the day, and in absence of an 'emergency situation'.

"It appears that the respondents had already prepared the draft of the ordinance and were waiting for the ongoing session to expire in order to avoid the due process of legislation," the PFUJ petition states.

The Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP), as well as the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) both issued their own critiques of the new PECA amendments.

“Under the guise of PECA Ordinance, the ruling elite has once again launched a vicious agenda to cut throat its political opponents and to silence those who believe in freedom of speech, opinion, and expression, so as to hide its insane and continuous failures,” the press statement issued by the SCBAP read.