Pakistan parliament passes tough anti-terror law amid military offensive

ISLAMABAD (TIP): Amid an allout military operation against the Taliban in North Waziristan, Pakistan’s parliament passed a controversial anti-terror law on July 2, giving security forces unbridled powers, including shoot-at-sight suspects involved in terrorism, arson and murder.

The “Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014” empowers an official of grade 15 (non gazetted officers/junior officers/ JCOs) and above to issue such orders. It also allows a suspect to be kept under detention for a period of 60 days after getting judicial remand. Under the act, security forces can conduct search operations without securing warrant from a judicial officer.

To allay apprehensions of rights groups, it envisages detention centre under the supervision of courts and provisions for judicial inquiry, if anyone was killed by security agencies under its ambit. Another important feature is imprisonment for at least 20 years for those convicted of militancy. Cybercrimes and offences related to information technology, as well as the crossing of national boundaries illegally have been included in the list of scheduled offences. Punishments under these offences can be extended to 20 years.

The bill was adopted with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) voting in favour of the resolution. It will remain in force for two years. The draft bill was introduced in the National Assembly or lower house, by minister of science and technology Zahid Hamid on behalf of interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Earlier on July 1, the senate or upper house had unanimously approved the bill.

Hamid said the bill was of “utmost importance” due to the military operation in North Waziristan, to enable security forces to take prompt action against the rebels. Pakistan government had tried to negotiate a peace deal with the banned militant group to find a solution to the decade-long insurgency that has claimed over 40,000 lives. But peace talks failed and after a series of terror attacks, including one on Karachi international airport, the government on June 15 launched an all-out offensive against foreign and local militants.

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So far a total of 386 militants and 19 soldiers have been killed in the offensive. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s human rights bodies and opposition criticized the bill saying it gives unbridled powers to security agencies. Rightwing Jamaat-i-Islami opposed the bill saying it violated certain human rights provisions of the Constitution. Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf did not participate in the voting.

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