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Asia and the Pacific
Western Asia

Pakistan - August 2023

Series of controversial legislation passed

Pakistan's outgoing government enacted four new laws before handing over to a caretaker administration who will oversee the next general elections. Critics and rights experts argue the bills were hastily passed without due deliberation. These include the Pakistan Army (Amendment Act), penalizing sensitive security information disclosure; the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, enhancing intelligence agencies' powers; and the Personal Data Protection and E-Safety Bills, restricting media access to detailed personal information - especially of government officials. The former two bills also propose penalties that include jail sentences for defaming the military amid concerns about military involvement in civilian trials. Similarly, the latter two raised worries about government control over social media, potential press freedom limitations, and access to government data. The legality of the former two bills, criticized for enhancing military powers, has further come into question after President Arif Alvi denied approving them, noting that he had "disagreed" with them and claiming that he had asked his staff to return the bills unsigned. He alleged that his staff had "undermined my will and command.”

Sources: Deutsch Welle, BBC News, Dawn, Nikkei Asia, Digital Rights Monitor, VOA News

Primary categories and factors
Rights -1 Rights  (-1)
Civil Liberties
Freedom of Expression
Freedom of The Press

Court suspends Imran Khan’s corruption sentence

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was sentenced to three years in jail for graft in August, saw his conviction suspended by a Pakistani appeals court on 29 August. The decision allows him to contest the upcoming parliamentary election, pending a retrial. His conviction earlier led to disqualification by the Election Commission, barring him from running for public office for five years. Despite bail granted by the Islamabad High Court, Khan faces an additional week of detention for another case on allegedly revealing state official secrets. Khan has faced numerous charges over the past year, which he says are politically motivated. Khan's lawyers are now seeking a Supreme Court order to prevent further detention, with no date set yet to hear his petition.

Sources: The Diplomat, BBC News, Foreign Policy, Dawn

Primary categories and factors
Rule of Law +1 Rule of Law  (+1)
Judicial Independence