ISLAMABAD - In a rare show of consensus between the treasury and the opposition benches, the upper house of the Parliament Tuesday unanimously passed five bills, including two significant anti-terrorism laws.
All the bills had been referred to the house by the National Assembly. Earlier, the Senate had passed only one bill, Survey and Mapping Bill 2014, referred to it by the lower house of the Parliament. Of the five bills, three bills were passed with amendments while two bills, including Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Bill, 2014, and Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2014,) were passed without any amendment. Both the bills would soon become act of the Parliament after the final signatures of the President of Pakistan while other three bills will go back to NA for its approval. As the bills were passed, Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq said, "We have passed five bills, dispelling the impression that the Senate had not made enough legislation for some time.”
The Senate is bound under the law to decide on any bill, referred to it by the National Assembly, within 90 days from the day it was tabled on the floor of the house. Of the five bills, the two anti-terrorism bills were completing their 90-day period on June 5 (today) while the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill, 2014, was completing 90-day period on June 4 (Wednesday). The other two bills will complete the 90-day period in July this year. If the Senate fails to pass any bill within 90 days, it goes to the joint sitting of the Parliament.
Before the house unanimously passed Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2014, with three amendments and the Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Bill, 2014, as passed by the standing committee on interior, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan said, “We (the opposition) are allowing the passage of both the bills because these are completing the 90-day period.” He said, “We are doing this on the assurance of the government that it will introduce amendments in both of them soon to address the reservations of the opposition benches. Federal Minster for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid showed his commitment, saying, “The government will incorporate amendments whatever agreed to.”
Muzaffar Hussain Shah of PML-Functional raised an objection to the language of the Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Bill relating to counterterrorism financing regime what he said some words like reasonable ground and credible information before proscription of any organisation have not been explained in the law. “It seems the Senate committee has passed the bill in haste,” he said. Zahid Hamid said these terms had been comprehensively explained in the law after he had read out a clause of the bill.
Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2014, is aimed at amending Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, and gives powers to the law-enforcement agencies as well as civil armed forces to shoot suspects on sight. It also provides protection to witnesses, judges, trial of accused through video link, use of electronic and forensic evidence and transfer of anti-terrorism cases from one area to another for safety purposes. Any accused with terrorism charges could also be detained for a period of 90 days under the law.
The Senate Standing Committee on Interior has made three amendments in the bill, including one that order to open fire on suspects should be given by a police officer of Grade-17 or above or equivalent to the rank in case of armed forces or civil armed forces or by a duty magistrate. The committee has amended the bill, saying that any detained person under this law shall be provided facility of medical check-up.
The third amendment is that where an investigation officer dishonestly and falsely involves, implicates or arrests a person shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both. The Senate has incorporated all the amendments in the bill.
Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Bill, 2014, was passed in the same shape as it was sent by the National Assembly. It will now go to the President for its final approval. The bill deals with counterterrorism financing regime to meet the international standards as pointed out by an international body, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and to meet requirement of UN Convention on Terrorism.
The house unanimously passed the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill, 2014, with some amendments. It provides for establishment of Islamabad Bar Council. The legislation was required since Islamabad High Court was established in 2010 through an act of the Parliament. The bill will now go back to the National Assembly. The upper house passed the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2014, as reported by the Senate standing committee concerned without any amendment. The Service Tribunal (Amendment) Bill, 2014, was also passed by the house with some amendments. The bill deals with amendments in the criterion for the appointment of chairman and members of Federal Service Tribunal (FST), powers to implement its orders and spend its budget independently.