ISLAMABAD - As a plethora of bills approving in the parliament every day, the coalition government yesterday passed another important bill - the Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023.
The bill, presented as a supplementary agenda item by the Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, moved by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Murtaza Javed Abbasi in the National Assembly. According to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill, it is imperative to amend the official Secrets Act 1923 and make it more effective in view of the changing social milieu to ensure safety and security of official documents. According to a new insertion 2 (A) in Section 11 of the Official Secret Act, 1923, “nothwithstanding anything contained in this Act or in any other law for the time being in future, the Intelligence Agencies, may at any time, enter and person or place, without warrant, and if necessary, by use of force and seize any document, sketch, plan, model, article, note, weapon, ammunition, electronic or modern device or anything of like nature, or anything which is or can be evidence of any offence committed, or suspecting of been committed under this Act.”
Another important insertion says that under this Act, “the Investigation Officer shall be an officer of the FIA not below the rank of BPS-17 or equivalent and he shall be designated by Director General FIA. If Director General FIA deems necessary, he may appoint Joint Investigation Team consisting of officers of intelligence agencies as he may appoint.”
According to the bill, the JIT will complete its inquiry within 30 days. The case relating to civil espionage will be investigated by FIA or JIT. However, according to an amendment in clause-B of Section 12, the punishment for an offence has been reduced from 14 to 10 years. Other bills - Toshakhana (Management and Regulation) Bill, 2023 and the Pakistan Airports Authority Bill, 2023 have already been passed by the Senate. The Toshakhana Management and Regulation Bill 2023 passed by the house envisaged that the existing and future gifts to be received in Toshakhana shall be disposed of through an open auction. The proceeds of such an auction shall be kept in a separate account and will be utilized for promoting female primary education in the most backward areas of the country.
“The public office holders including Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Federal Ministers, other cabinet members, government officers will have to deposit gifts with Toshakhana within 30 days,” it says.
Three private members’ bills passed by the House included the Promotion and Protection of Gandhara Culture Authority Bill, 2023; the Margalla International University Bill, 2023 and the Thar International Institute Bill, 2023. All these bills were sponsored by MNA Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani.