ISLAMABAD - The government finally got passed the Protection of Pakistan (Amendment) Ordinance 2014, from the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Interior with a majority vote despite resistance from major opposition parties.
The bill will now be put to vote on the floor of the National Assembly. An in-camera session of the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Interior was held on Tuesday to discuss the Ordinance that suggests further amendments in the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance 2013. MNA Rana Shamim Ahmed Khan chaired the meeting.
The major opposition parties including PPP, MQM, PTI, JI and also a party from the treasury benches, JUI-F, opposed the bill terming some of its clauses contradictory to basic human rights. The opposition said that under this bill, the government's powers to transfer any case from a court to special court under the bill and to keep any person under detention for a period of 90 days were violation of fundamental rights.
The ordinance states that the government may authorize detention of a person, if in the opinion of the government‚ is acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity‚ security and defense of Pakistan.
The meeting witnessed an exchange of hot words between Asif Husnain of MQM and Tahmina Daultana of PML-N and the latter said that MQM always opposed the laws relating to anti-terrorism. While MQM member said that black laws were always used against the party. MQM members gave a dissenting note on the bill.
State Minister of Interior Baleegur Rehman said that every citizen has the protection under Article 10 of the Constitution and the government will provide complete protection to every citizen.
Baleeg while talking to reporters after the meeting said minor amendments were being introduced in the bill and the reservations of the opposition were baseless. He said that only terrorism cases would be transferred to special courts after finding strong evidence that these were related to terrorism.
The committee had deferred the bill last week because of the severe resistance of opposition parties. The ordinance was tabled in National Assembly on January 30, 2014, during the 4th sitting of its 8th session.
Meanwhile, Senate Standing Committee on Interior deferred an important legislation, the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2014, for some time after the members of the committee opposed it.
The Bill gives powers to the armed forces as well as civil armed forces to detain any suspect for an extendable period of 90 days.
The committee that met on Tuesday under the chair of Senator Talha Mahmood asked the Ministry of Interior to give a comparative analysis of the proposed bill with the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and Pakistan Penal Code 1860 so that the committee could deeply study the pros and cons of the legislation.
The National Assembly has already passed the bill.
The committee showed its reservations on certain clauses of the proposed bill suspecting that it could be used against politicians in future to victimise them.
Sardar Ali Khan of PPP said that how could the Rangers and other armed forces be given powers to detain a person for a period of 90 days and that could be extended for another same period. The committee also rejected the clause of the bill that gives powers to the forces to shoot terrorists and other miscreants.
Talha said that it would be used against politicians while Sardar Ali Khan viewed that it would be improper to detain a suspect for 90 days. Tahir Mashhadi of MQM also opposed the bill.
While State Minister for Interior Baleegur Rehman said this power would decrease the phenomenon of missing persons. He also said that previously the law permitted the law enforcement agencies to fire when they would be fired upon and this was not practicable in other parts of the world.
Additional Secretary Ministry of Interior Hamid Ali Khan giving the briefing on the bill said that under the proposed legislation, the powers of Rangers and other armed forces were being enhanced, a mechanism of judges and witnesses protection had been evolved and cases of terrorism could be transferred to other areas of the country to camouflage the witnesses. He said that the statements of witnesses could also be recoded through video link.
The committee also deferred another bill, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014, that enhances punishment as well as fine for power theft and pilferage. The Bill had been introduced in the Senate on 10th January, this year. The committee was of the view this law would be used by the officials of the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) as a bargaining chip.
Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Interior said that the legislation was introduced because according to a report of WAPDA, 23000 FIRs of power theft were registered during 2012-13 and among these cases, courts convicted persons in three cases. He said that 15 billion units lost as result of power theft and due to this, WAPDA had to suffer losses of Rs 90 billion.
The State Minister of Interior told the committee that previously WAPDA collected only actual amount of power theft and this encouraged power thieves. Under the proposed legislation, now fines would be imposed in addition to the recovery of actual money of power theft.
Senator Sardar Ali Khan opposed the bill saying that the mechanism of recovery should be stringent and punishment should not be enhanced while Tahir Mashhadi said that power pilferage was being done in connivance with WAPDA efficacies and they will used this legislation as a bargaining chip.
The chairman constituted a sub-committee headed by Sardar Ali Khan that will give its recommendations after consulting WAPDA hierarchy.
During the meeting, the chair criticized the behaviour of the Interior Ministry for not attending the last two meetings of the committee. He said that the government could not ignore the oversight role of the parliamentary committees. He said that the sitting officers of NADRA as well as Ministry of Interior including Dr Tahir Akram were allegedly involved in the corruption scam of Safe City Project of Islamabad. He said that Chine had informed the government of Pakistan to clear clouds on the project before the finalization of Neelum Jehlum Hydropower Project.