ISLAMABAD - The government has started process to extend Protection of Pakistan Act (PoPA) for another two years as the law is going to expire in July this year, it has been learnt reliably.

PoPA reaches the end of its life in July this summer with no considerable achievement viz-a-viz conviction of terrorists as ‘no case has been decided till date under this Act’. The sources told The Nation that interior ministry and law and justice division had initiated the process for incorporating relevant amendment in the Act to give the law another two years life on the request of the defence ministry.

“The process for extending the law for another two years has begun and the interior ministry, law and justice division and Ministry of Human Rights are on board. The interior ministry and law and justice division have fully endorsed the move while the Ministry of Human Rights have some reservations over extending the law for another two years,” the sources said.

The PoPA, aimed at speedy conviction of hardcore terrorists, was promulgated in July 2014 with a sunset clause of two years. It was supposed to be a war-time law that should have made it easier to prosecute terrorists, but hardly any terrorist ended up being punished under this Act. After the transfer of subject of prosecution agency to the interior ministry, regional prosecutors general of all provinces and public prosecutors for special courts (PPA, 2014) at all designated stations were appointed by the interior ministry on additional charge basis. The advocate general ICT was appointed as prosecutor general to head prosecuting agency under the said Act in addition to his own duties. The ministry believed that with the introduction of public prosecutors in special courts, there was a possibility of substantial disposal till the implementation of PoPA 2014 but the law could not get desired results. According to a report of prosecutor general which is exclusively available with this correspondent, a total of 183 cases were registered under the Act since its coming into force.

The report said 92 cases were registered in Punjab, seven in Sindh, 35 in KP and 49 in Balochistan but no case has been decided till date. The future of the pending cases after coming into effect of the sunset clause in July this year would be decided by incorporating relevant amendment in the Act, the report added.

The report said at other stations where independent special courts were not established, the powers were conferred upon the judges of anti-terrorism courts to try offences under the said Act. A total of 16 anti-terrorism courts across the country were conferred upon such powers. These include Anti-Terrorism Court-I Multan, Anti-Terrorism Court Hyderabad, Anti-Terrorism Court Mirpurkhas, Anti-Terrorism Court Sukkar, Anti-Terrorism Court Larkana, Anti-Terrorism Court Kohat, Anti-Terrorism Court Bannu, Anti-Terrorism Court Dera Ismail Khan, Anti-Terrorism Court Mardan, Anti-Terrorism Court Abbottabad, Anti-Terrorism Court Loralai, Anti-Terrorism Court Turbat, Anti-Terrorism Court Khuzdar, Anti-Terrorism Court Sibbi, Anti-Terrorism Court Dera Allah Yar and Anti-Terrorism Court-II Quetta.

Initially, the PML-N government introduced the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance in late 2013, but it was challenged in the courts. The government ultimately laid it before the parliament in July 2014. After amendments, the law was adopted for two years. According to the statement of objects of the bill, it provides for protection against waging of war or insurrection against Pakistan, prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan and for speedy trial of offences falling in the schedule and for matters connected thereto or incidental thereto.

Offences that fall under PoPA include crimes against ethnic, religious and political groups, use of nuclear arms, suicide bomb attacks, killing, kidnapping, extortion or attacks on members of parliament, judiciary, executive, media, officials of armed forces, aid workers. The law also covered attacks against energy facilities, airports, gas pipelines and grid stations, educational institutions, mass transport system and violence against foreign nationals. It also made crossing national boundaries illegally a crime punishable under the PoPA.