ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly yesterday passed the ‘Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2015’ amid strong protest from the main opposition parties.
The bill, tabled by Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Jaffar Iqbal, approved the amendment in Pakistan Army Act, 1952, which provides for speedy trial of terrorism-related offences and protection to court officials.
The opposition parties, including PPP, PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami, termed the bill against the fundamental rights of the people.
Despite strong protest from the main opposition parties, the bill was passed with numerical strength of the treasury benches.
The statement of objects and reasons of the bill say, “The existing extraordinary situation and circumstances demand special measures for speedy trial of certain offences relating to terrorism, waging war or insurrection against Pakistan and prevention of acts threatening its security by any terrorist group using the name of religion or sect and members of such armed groups, wings and militia,”.
In order to ensure proper conduct of trails, it says, it is desirable that during the conduct of trials, there must be no compromise on security. “Special measures for protection of such officials and indemnity against terrorists are required,” it further says.
The amendment in Section-II says, “A person will be subject to the act provided that there shall be no suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings against any person in respect of any act which is in ‘good faith’ alone intended to be done under sub-sections iii and iv of Section 2”.
“A person could be tried under the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015 if in ‘good faith’, it is found that he could be subject to the Ac,” says the amendment of the bill, already passed from upper house of the parliament.
The lawmakers from the opposition parties raised objection over use of words ‘good faith’ in the amendment bill. “There should be proper description of ‘good faith’ used in the bill. What is the need of it after 21st Amendment,” said PTI lawmaker Shireen Mazari. The bill should not be bulldozed with numerical strength, she remarked.
Arif Alvi from PTI also commented that there were some lacunas in the bill, which need to be corrected.
PPP lawmaker Nafeesa Shah said this amendment would be sheer violation of fundamental rights. Jamaat-e-Islami lawmaker Sahibzada Tariq Ullah also questioned the reasons behind amendments in the bill.
Responding to the concerns raised by opposition parties, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Jaffar Iqbal said the words ‘good faith’ are used in legislation.
“Under special circumstances, a government has to take such measures. It is need of the time,” he said, adding the amendments being made were meant to strengthen the already existing Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015.
Zahid Hamid from treasury benches also commented that there was no unusual section added to the bill. “This bill has already been passed by the upper house,” he added.
The government also approved ‘the minimum wages for unskilled workers (amendment) bill, 2015’ with the aim to increase wages from Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 for the welfare of labour class.
The opposition parties, including PPP and PTI, asked the government to increase wages from Rs 12,000 to Rs 18,000 to facilitate the small segment of workers.
The statement of objects and reasons says the finance minister in his budget speech had announced to increase wages of workers from Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000. The amendment was moved by PML-N lawmaker Sardar Shafqat Hayat Khan.
The chair, on the request of opposition parties, (PPP) withdrew the agenda item regarding the heat waves and humidity that caused the deaths of hundreds of people. “This item could not be discussed in a year and now situation has entirely changed, so it should be dropped,” said PPP’s Naveed Qamar, asking the chair to withdraw this item.
Later, Parliamentary Secretary for Cabinet Division Raja Javed Ikhlas told the house that private schools in the federal capital would charge fees as were being charged by them in 2014.