The case filed against journalist Shahzeb Jillani has been disposed of due to lack of evidence.
The judicial magistrate ruled that it was to be declared C class, which means the FIR is not maintainable or does not have grounds to be prosecuted. The FIR has therefore been cancelled.
Jillani is a senior journalist who has worked with BBC News for many years in Washington, Beirut, and London. He has written for The Friday Times, The News, Deutsche Welle among other places. He has worked in television, print, online and radio. He currently works as a senior executive editor for Dunya Kamran Khan Ke Sath.
The FIA registered a case against Jillani on April 6 on a complaint filed by Maulvi Muhammad Iqbal Haider, an advocate. The complaint was filed on March 28.
He said that Jillani made “audacious remarks against invisible security forces of Pakistan” while working as a coordinator of the Dunya TV show Dunya Kamran Khan Kay Saath. His gave references of episodes which aired December 8, 2017, and March 18, 2019.
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“Law enforcement agencies have been directly or indirectly, deliberately and intentionally alleged for influencing the democratic system of Pakistan,” the complainant said.
The FIR was registered against Jillani under sections 10(a) (cyber terrorism), 11 (hate speech) and 20 (harming the reputation or privacy of a natural person) of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016, and sections 34 (acts done in furtherance of common intention), 109 (abetment) and 500 (defamation) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
A person can be imprisoned for up to 14 years or fined up to Rs50 million or both if convicted under Section 10(a). Section 11 is punishable by a jail term of seven years. Section 20 is punishable by a jail term of three and/or a fine of Rs1 million.
In the final order it was noted that the sections mentioned in the FIR and interim charge sheet, like sections 10 (a) and 11 of the PECA and sections 34, 109 and 500 of the PPC did not apply to the offense as the statements made “did not create any sense of fear, panic or insecurity in the government or public or a section of the public”.
The order said that only Section 20 of the PECA was applicable in the case. Section 20 relates to offences against the dignity of a natural person. However, it noted that the scope of the law is restricted to ‘natural persons’ who are defined as “living human being(s) who (are) capable of having rights and performing their duties concurrently”. The person who registered the complaint was not the aggrieved person in this complain and no complaint had been received from the serving general of the ISI who may have been the aggrieved person.
Jillani is the third journalist to be booked under PECA. PECA was passed in 2016. The law has 55 sections which deal with persecuting people on the basis of what they say or do online.