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Pak anti-terror law to get more teeth

Publication Date : 05-09-2012


The Pakistan government has decided to bring in a new law that would arm security and intelligence agencies with modern techniques of surveillance and collecting evidence to ensure that no culprit escaped punishment for lack of proof.

Law Minister Farooq Naek told Dawn on Tuesday that the Fair Trial Act of 2012 would be among three to four other laws that the federal cabinet would consider at a meeting today.

The minister said if the laws were approved by the cabinet, the government would table them in the parliament during the ongoing sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate.

The Fair Trial Act of 2012 was being promulgated to ensure that no culprit, particularly those involved in acts of terrorism, managed to win release from the courts because of lack of evidence or through intimidation of witnesses and even judges, he said.

The government had introduced a bill to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act in the Senate some two years ago, but the house committee on interior, headed by a JUI-F Senator, did nothing.

The minister said the law was aimed at providing investigation for collection of evidence by means of modern techniques and devices to prevent and effectively deal with scheduled offences and to regulate powers of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Explaining the term "scheduled offences", the minister said there was a long list of laws that dealt with different kinds of offences such as the Pakistan Nuclear Regulation Act and the Explosives Act.

Naek said the law would also prevent security and intelligence agencies from using arbitrary powers and to provide for permissible and fair uses in accordance with the law and under proper executive and judicial oversight keeping in view Article 10-A of the Constitution.

The existing laws, he said, had no provision for modern investigative techniques such as covert surveillance, human intelligence, eavesdropping and communication interception.

Minorities seats

The minister said that a new constitutional amendment bill, seeking increase in reserved seats for minorities in the National and provincial assemblies, was ready.

The bill proposes the reserved seats for minorities in the National Assembly be increased from 10 to 14, from eight to 10 in the Punjab Assembly, from nine to 12 in the Sindh Assembly and from three to four in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies.

The minister said there had been a demand from minorities that their quota of seats be increased in keeping with their population.

He said the reserved seats for minorities were not increased at the time of increase in general seats and women seats some 10 years ago.

The cabinet is also expected to consider some bills seeking amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Electricity Act to deal with offences such as theft, subversion, non-payment of tariff, tampering with meters and transmission and distribution lines, improper use of meters, damaging and destroying transmission lines.

The bill authorises the federal government and the power distribution companies to register an FIR (first information report) against the accused and their trial would be held before a session judge.

He said his ministry had sent copies of laws to the ministry of water and power.

Earlier in the day, during the parliamentary party meeting of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, Naek briefed the party’s legislators about the bills.

He talked about the government’s stance in the NRO (National Reconciliation Order) implementation case being heard by the Supreme Court.

Sources told Dawn that the members were least interested in the government’s legislative plan and raised issues related to their constituencies.

A number of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) members expressed annoyance over the performance of ministers and complained that development funds had not been utilised properly in their constituencies.

Noor Alam Khan, a member of National Assembly (MNA), criticised Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and uttered some remarks which shocked the prime minister.

Another MNA, Abdul Wahid Soomro, said development funds had been allocated to opponents of the party in Thatta, but not to him.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said completion of the constitutional term of the government was essential for continuity and strengthening of democracy.

“It should not be misconstrued to mean that the PPP wants to cling to power for a few more months,” he said.

The prime minister invited all parliamentarians to submit suggestions about improvement in governance.


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