`Seditious` utterances – 15 Feb 2023
THE PDM government appears hell-bent on clubbing its opponents, particularly those belonging to the PTI, with the big stick of sedition. The latest political figure to face charges of making `seditious` utterances is former finance minister Shaukat Tarin. The FIA on Monday filed charges against Mr Tarin based on audio clips leaked in August in which the former minister is allegedly heard advising the then PTI finance ministers of KP and Punjab not to return surplus funds to the centre in order to sabotage talks with the IMF. Shaukat Tarin claims the clips have been `tampered` with. Other PTI figures who have recently faced the sword of sedition include Fawad Chaudhry, Shandana Gulzar, Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill.
The loose application of the sedition law, particularly to silence opponents, needs to stop. Mr Tarin`s comments if proved to be true were indeed highly inappropriate. He should have known better than to recommend undermining talks on such a sensitive issue, considering the fact he has served in government multiple times. However, bringing these indiscretions within the ambit of sedition is simply absurd. A parallel investigation also needs to take place probing who bugged the former minister`s phone. The fact that intelligence agencies, military and civilian, are listening in on private conversations is unsettling. Though it is true that, when in power, the PTI hounded its political adversaries by using the same unseemly tactics, the politics of vengeance and retribution must come to an end. All stakeholders need to step back and work towards bringing civility to politics. The rapid-fire filing of cases against opponents needs to be done away with, especially on such grave charges before the practice turns into an endless loop of revenge. Moreover, the sooner the sedition law is done away with, the better, as rather than containing anti-state activity, this odious legislation is used to keep critical voices in check by both civilian and military rulers.