The Punjab Assembly has passed a bill that allows the Directorate General Public Relations (DGPR) powers to visit and inspect any printing press, publication house, book store and confiscate any book, at any stage of printing.
As well prohibiting the printing and publication of objectionable material, the Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam Bill 2020 also bars the printing or publishing any book and material that consists of photographs or pictures of suicide bombers, terrorists, except as required by law enforcing agencies for purposes of investigation.
The new law makes it mandatory for “the blessed name of Prophet Muhammad” (Peace Be Upon Him) be preceded by the title Khatam-an-Nabiyyin or Khatam-un-Nabiyyin followed by ‘Sallallahu alaihi wasallam’ (darood) in Arabic text.
It also states that every publisher of books should be bound to provide memoranda of all books, published by him, to the authorised officer, after every three months with other details.
Additionally, every importer of books shall be bound to memoranda of all books imported in the province by him, within fifteen days of import of books to the authorized officer.
The term book covered every volume, part or division of a volume, and pamphlet, in any language and every sheet of music, sign, map, chart or plan separately printed or reprinted or reproduced, lithographed or produced in any soft form, disc or any other similar device etc., used for digital or electronic storage, other than a newspaper, magazine, journal, newsletter and the textbook defined under the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board Act.
The DGPR also has the power to refuse permission to import, print or publish a book if it is prejudicial to the national interest, culture, religious and sectarian harmony.
Anyone who fails to follow law faces up to five years in jail and a substantial fine.
Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK, said: “Itlooks like the country is speedily heading towards becoming a theocratic state - the complete opposite of the vision of the father of the Nation, Quid I Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
“In April the Governor of Punjab of Punjab Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar said it would be compulsory for Muslim students to attend the ‘Quran with Translation’ lecture.
“The Punjab government has made the teaching of the Holy Quran with translation mandatory in all provincial universities, and a notification has been issued by the provincial government recently.
“While in July the National Assembly adopted a resolution for teaching Holy Quran with translation in universities.
“The comments from the speaker of Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi are quite concerning as he has said that “The Section Number 3/F of this bill should be Article 295 of Pakistan Penal Code 1860.” The law is already being widely misused in the country and many innocent people are suffering in prison, and several have lost their lives because of misuse of this law.
“Ch Pervaiz Elahi’s further comments that this bill will prove to be a milestone in the protection of Islam and its supremacy and federation, and provinces should follow us in this regard are beyond my understanding as Pakistan is a country where 95% of its population is Muslim, and the remaining 5% is Hindu, Christians and other beleaguered minorities , who are already suffering because of growing hate against them.
“They are never considered a threat to Islam or the country. If there is any threat to the country that is from the politicians’ and government’s such policies and legislation, through which space for religious freedom, free thinking and freedom of expression is shrinking.
“Such law will not do any good to this country but will help to increase extremism, promote religious intolerance and hatred against religious minorities, as we have seen in the past and very recently in the opposition to the Hindu temple in Islamabad.”