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ISLAMABAD: Noor Alam Khan, who is believed to be one of the vocal lawmakers of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday proposed to Prime Minister Imran Khan that "Naya Pakistan" with curbs on freedom of expression would be detrimental to the government.

According to the sources, during a meeting of the party's parliamentary committee meeting held at the Parliament House with the prime minister in the chair to chalk out a strategy for the passage of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-related bills, Alam "tactfully" conveyed the message to the prime minister that "curbs on anything whether it's media, rights organisation, or any other organisation", would be damaging for the party.

In an obvious reference to a recently-introduced private members' bill seeking to punish those who intentionally defame, ridicule or bring disrepute to the military, rising incidents of kidnapping of journalists, and registration of cases against them, etc, the MNA was quoted as saying "there should be no ban on freedom of speech".

However, according to the sources, the prime minister did not say anything in response to the idea floated by the MNA, who had also criticised the policies of his party's government, in the past.

The ruling PTI has been linking critical coverage by the media to potential "treason" in its latest broadside against the country's beleaguered media.

Besides, treason cases have been registered against scores of journalists, since the PTI has come into power, in a bid to silence the journalists, critical of its policies.

The country is routinely ranked among the world's most dangerous nations for media workers, and journalists have frequently been detained, kidnapped, beaten and even killed for being critical of the government or the military especially during the PTI government.

After the PTI came into power in 2018, the space for dissent has shrunk further, with the government announcing a crackdown on social media networks, and traditional media houses decrying pressure from authorities that they say has resulted in widespread self-censorship.

When approached for comments, Noor Alam neither picked the phones nor responded to the text message sent on his mobile phone till the filing of this report.

During the meeting of the parliamentary committee, which was also attended by the allied political parties, the prime minister directed the lawmakers to ensure their participation in the joint sitting to pass the bills related to the FATF.

He said that all the bills pertaining to the FATF, which had been rejected by the Senate, should be passed through the joint sitting at all costs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020