ISLAMABAD - The Senate on Thursday passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023 that seeks up to five years in jail for anyone who discloses sensitive information pertaining to the security of the country or the Pakistan Army.
The bill that seeks to amend the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 proposed that “anyone who discloses or causes to be disclosed any information, acquired in official capacity, which is or may be prejudicial to the security and interest of Pakistan or the armed forces of Pakistan, shall be … punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years”.
However, if someone does so “after seeking prior approval from the chief of army staff (COAS), or any officer duly empowered by him,…” then it shall not be deemed as an “unauthorised disclosure”. The house passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023 while ignoring the routine parliamentary practices and without being sent it to the standing committee concerned. The House also passed three more bills.
The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023 forbids any person subject to the Army Act from engaging in any kind of political activity for two years from the date of his “retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service”. It further says that those who have remained posted, employed, or attached on sensitive duties are forbidden from taking part in “political activity of any kind, during a period of five years from the date of their retirement, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service. It states that anyone who violates the conditions, upon his conviction by the court constituted under the Army Act, will be punished with “rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years”. The bill prohibits any person linked with the Pakistan Army in the past five years from directly or indirectly entering into employment, consultation or other engagement with an entity having conflict of interest with the activities of the Pakistan Army or its affiliates.
However, the law does not apply to those who seek prior approval from the COAS for the above. A person guilty of the said offence can be imprisoned for up to “two years with fine not exceeding Rs500,000 or with both”, the bill states.
Another amendment in the Act states that the Pakistan Army may, in the manner as may be prescribed through its affiliated entities, carry out activities that relate to welfare and rehabilitation of serving and retired personnel of Pakistan Army, wounded personnel, as well as families of Shuhada (martyrs). The House also passed Cantonments (Amendment) bill, Defence Housing Authority Islamabad (Amendment) Bill and the Board of Investment (Amendment) Bill. The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Islamabad (Amendment) Bill, 2023 seeks to mend the DHA Islamabad Act, 2013. A proposed amendment in Section 6 of the DHA Act says the authority may “impose, vary, and recover any fee or charges for rendering any services within any scheme in the specified area including registration fee, transfer fee, management fee, development or re-development charges or additional development charges and maintenance fee, dues and charges etc.” The bill gives powers to the authority’s Executive Board and Governing Body to make by-laws and regulations respectively for the smooth functioning of DHA. The objects and reasons of the bill say that the earlier Act provided no clear mechanism for arrangement of security in the specified area. This ambiguity creates security threats to the allottees of the Authority for which proposed security mechanism has been inserted in the new law, it added. The Board of Investment (Amendment) Bill, 2023 says the Federal government, shall, by a notification, in the official gazette, establish a Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) for carrying out the purposes, envisioned under this law. The bill says that the President of SIFC shall be the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The President of SIFC may co-opt any person as a member, or may require attendance of any person by special invitation, as deemed appropriate. Under the proposed law, the already in place Council headed by the Prime Minister, with Army Chief its part, shall facilitate investment and privatization in areas, including, but not limited to, defence, agriculture, infrastructure, development, strategic initiatives, logistics, minerals, information technology, telecommunication, and energy. The council shall take all necessary measures in order to establish, facilitate, encourage and promote opportunities for investment and business in Pakistan.