KARACHI - The main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has rejected the controversial Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) bill in its present shape, suggesting 12 amendments in form of a new bill.
Critics say the PPO gives extraordinary powers to law-enforcement agencies and undermines fundamental rights of the citizens. The government has already got it stamped from the National Assembly, where it enjoys comfortable majority. But, it has been stuck in the Senate.
PPP Additional General Secretary Senator Mian Raza Rabbani addressing a press conference at PPP Media Cell in Karachi shared the salient features of their draft titled ‘Protection of Pakistani Citizens Act 2014’ (PPCA), which they have also handed over to the government. PPP medial cell in-charge Senator Saeed Ghani, MNA Shahida Rehmani, Habibuddin Junaidi, Lateef Mughal, Zulfiqar Qaimkhani and others accompanied Rabbani on the occasion.
“The Pakistan Protection Bill is not acceptable in present form, as it is against the fundamental human rights enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan,” Rabbani declared, announcing that joint opposition in Senate will not let it pass from upper house.
Rabbani said that four parties of opposition — PPP, ANP, PML-Q and BNP-Awami – have jointly prepared the PPCA draft by introducing 12 amendments in the existing PPO bill. He said it had been handed over to the government and now ball is in their court. PPP Senator said that the joint opposition was ready to talk with the government on this bill as “we too believe in the importance of stringent law to counter increasing extremism in the country”.
By presenting the amended bill the joint opposition aims to differentiate between foreign and local militants and terrorism suspects, a unique proposition to the legal lexicon in the fight against militancy, clarifying that the law must not violate the fundamental rights of citizens as enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan.
Rabbani said that they have suggested cutting the time span from three to two years during which the law will remain in force, and urged the government to refer the law to the house committees for their input. The opposition in their draft also reduced the remand period of any suspect to 45 day, from the 90 days as suggested in existing PPO, besides proposing to produce every arrested before magistrate after every 15 days. Moreover, they have proposed enforcement of the law in whole of the country, instead of enforcing it only in the trouble parts of Pakistan.
Rabbani said they have proposed three sub-clauses in the definition clause which include Foreign Combatant, who has taken up arms against the state of Pakistan; the Militant, who takes up or encourages taking up arms against Pakistan or a foreign state; and Suspect, an ordinary citizen of Pakistan that is suspected of militant activity.
PPP senator said that they have suggested the oversight of the judiciary for proper implementation to ensure the human rights of the citizens, besides if any death occurs, there will be a judicial commission to be headed by no less than a sessions judge to investigate the circumstances. He said the amended law states if search operation is inevitable, the memo of the items recovered will have to be presented before a local magistrate within 24 hours.
The proposed draft supports custody of foreign combatants for many days but required producing a Pakistani citizen, arrested for any crime, before magistrate within 24 hours of his/her arrest. The authority for appointment of the judges for the special courts has been proposed to be given under the Chief Justice of Pakistan, who along with the consultation of the four provincial Chief Justices will make the appointment.
Under the suggested amendments, appeals against the decision of the special courts could also be made in the High Courts, which was previously only restricted to the Supreme Court under PPO. Rabbani hoped that government will respond positively to ensure the rights of the citizens according to constitution of Pakistan.