Senate passes Pak Army (Amend) Bill 2023

Bill proposes five-year jail for disclosing sensitive information about country’s security

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.

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