ISLAMABAD - The Senate on Tuesday passed the Anti-Terrorism Bill, 2013, lying pending with the Parliament for more than three years, with the majority of vote just 11 days before the expiry of the term of the incumbent Assemblies and that was only opposed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F).
The Bill will strengthen the provisions concerning the offences of terrorism financing and to provide more effective enforcement measures against such offences.
It will give more powers to the law-enforcement agencies to take effective action against those who finance acts of terrorism and will improve the regime for freezing, seizure and forfeiture of property used for terrorism. JUI-F opposing the Bill gave unsatisfactory arguments as its Parliamentary leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri questioned what was the use of Anti-terrorism Act, 1997 that could not end terrorism in the country. The party later walked out from the House.
Law Minister Farooq H Naek said the government wanted to remove loopholes in the existing law on anti-terrorism and the legislation was neither against any person, nor group or sect rather it would strengthen the counter-terrorism efforts.
The House also witnessed a hot argument between Chairman Senate Nayyer Hussain Bokhari and PPP stalwart Mian Raza Rabbani, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security when he pointed out to the latter that the rules did not allow to deliver speak on a call attention notice after the statement of the Minister.
Rabbani was speaking on the issue of grant of permission to US Army Corps of Engineering to build a Tactical Command and Operations Center compound at the Jinnah International Airport Karachi to exchange information with Pakistan Customs Drug Enforcement Cell. The hot argument ended followed by a walkout from the House by Rabbani.
The argument started when Rabbani looking dissatisfied with the answer of the Law Minister Farooq H Naek started speaking on the issue and the chair intervened that the member should ask the question rather making the debate, as rules did not allow it. Law Minister in the answer given on behalf of Finance Minister said that neither any command centre at the airport exists nor such agreement had been finalised. He assured the House that in case the agreement was finalised neither US military or its personnel would be involved in the construction of the centre nor it would be manned by them but only by Pakistanis. He said that project was aimed only for the operations of Customs.
Mian Rabbani raised doubts on the answer of the Minister stating if the agreement was not finalised how the Expression of Interest (EOI) for the project was invited. “How some company can invite EOI without the finalisation of the agreement,” he added.
He questioned if the project was only related to Customs, they why US Department of Defence was funding it and why not US Drug Agency was involved in it.
Referring to a clarification of US Embassy in Pakistan, published in the Press, he pointed out,“spokesman of the Embassy says that the facility was being built on the request of the Pakistani government.”
He said that the statement of Law Minister had put the House into a embarrassing situation because if the agreement was not finalised, how the facility was being built endorsed by none other than US Embassy.
Over the interruption of the chair, Rabbani became infuriated and asked the chair,” You cannot stifle me, this is a question of national security”.
Mushahid Hussain Syed, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence said the issue was sensitive as the construction work was being carried out by US Army Engineer Corps though the facility was related to drugs.
Leader of the House Senator Jehangir Badar as the convener of the Special Committee on Election Issues presented the report of the Committee while the House through a motion enhanced the scope of the work of the committee giving it the mandate to oversight elections, look into the day-to-day issues on elections as well as the matter of preparation nomination of form.
Senator Sughra Imam opposed the move stating it did not come under the ambit of Parliament and it would raise a legal question, as it was the function of the Election Commission of Pakistan to oversee the election process.
The 24th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2013 aimed at creation of Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab was again deferred on Tuesday, present on the agenda of the House, due to the short of strength of required two thirds majority from the Treasury sides.