Due process

Editorial Board
Wednesday, Jun 07, 2023

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has refuted PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s stance on human rights violations in the country and said that proper legal procedures are being followed in handling each case pertaining to the party’s involvement in the May 9 riots. Taking to his official Twitter handle, PM Shehbaz has said that he will ensure that no rights violations take place, while also reiterating that Imran is “openly and deliberately disinforming local and foreign audiences by glib talk laced with fake news and plain misrepresentation” in his interviews with international media. The prime minister’s commitment to due process under the law comes at a time when the PTI is building a narrative that it is facing an unprecedented crackdown and human rights violations.

Human rights organizations and the civil society have asked the government to ensure that due process is followed, and the culprits and perpetrators of the May 9 violence are punished but at the same time innocent bystanders or their families are not penalized for being at the wrong place, at the wrong time. There have been numerous complaints by PTI members and leadership of their families being harassed because those members and leaders are in hiding. Needless to say, these are tactics that no democratic government should follow; there is also a need to end age-old and unfortunately familiar colonial means of arrest, detention and 'pressure'. If the prime minister has said that due process under the law will be followed. There are many challenges the government faces but transparency should not be one of them. Those responsible for the May 9 violence must be brought to book but those against whom there is no evidence need to be released as swiftly as the police and justice system can manage. It is also important that the government provides legal aid to those who cannot afford to hire lawyers.

On the other hand, it is also important to tackle the PTI’s disinformation campaign. While the PTI’s fake narratives have been consistently debunked, the PTI builds a narrative and spreads misinformation on social media as well as local and international media is quite an achievement. It is important that the government and the police fact-check this disinformation with proper evidence and proof – and without resorting to hyperbole on its side as well. We have seen some social media users have taken it upon themselves to debunk the videos being circulated by the PTI and its social media team but it is the job of the government to do this regularly instead. Only recently, we saw a fake travel warning circulating on social media platforms urging US citizens of Pakistan origin to avoid using the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) while travelling to Pakistan. Many overseas Pakistanis fell for the misinformation and finally the US State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) had to refute the false 'travel warning' for Pakistan amid the ongoing political turmoil in the country. The US SCA on Sunday clarified that it had not issued any travel advisory for the country in June. This sort of fake news should immediately be debunked and those spreading it should be taken to task. The government is answerable if it does not ensure due process but the PTI is also answerable for their propaganda campaigns.