Parliament moves to nail terrorists
* Senate passes bill for establishment of National Counter-Terrorism Authority
* NA clears bill to deal strictly with elements posing danger to national security
By Ijaz Kakakhel and Tanveer Ahmed
ISLAMABAD: The two Houses of parliament on Wednesday passed two key pieces of legislation to tackle endemic terrorism in the country.
The Senate passed the National Counter-Terrorism Authority bill. However, PPP’s veteran politician Raza Rabbani opposed the bill, as Law Minister Farooq H Naik tabled it for approval. Rabbani was of the view that according to the bill the authority was not an independent institution, as it would work under the bureaucracy. He also said that the army would command a superior position, as the prime minister would not be able to do anything if the head of any agency did not attend the authority’s meetings.
Rabbani said the NACTA board of governors would comprise of terrorism experts and federal secretary, and questioned their expertise in countering terrorism. He claimed if the House passed the bill, it would not yield the results for which NACTA is to be established.
Meanwhile, Mohsin Leghari suggested that the bill should not be passed in haste and be sent to the committee concerned for further deliberations. However, the Senate approved the proposed legislation and none of the political parties opposed it. The main purpose of the establishment of the anti-terror body is to ensure coordination and interaction between the law enforcement agencies of all the provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan as well as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to rein in terrorism in the country. The authority will be an independent body directly answerable to the prime minister.
According to the Bill, the authority will have a board of governors to be headed by the prime minister and would include all provincial chief ministers and that of Gilgit-Baltistan, the prime minister of AJK, minister for law and justice, one senator to be recommended by the Senate chairman, one MNA to be recommended by National Assembly speaker, interior secretary, Inter Services Intelligence DG, Intelligence Bureau DG, Military Intelligence DG, National Coordinator, Federal Investigation Agency DG and inspector generals of police of all provinces, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan as its members. The headquarters of the authority will be at Islamabad and it may set up offices at other places in the country.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly on Wednesday unanimously approved the stringent Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Bill 2013 after the government agreed to incorporate eighteen amendments suggested by the PML-N, MQM and its estranged lawmaker Zafar Ali Shah as well as those by Tariq Shabir, a PPP member of the House.
The amended bill shows that the government may, for a period of time not exceeding thirty days and after recording reasons, thereof, issue order for preventive detention of any person who has been concerned in any offence under this act relating to national security and sectarianism or against whom a reasonable compliant has been made or credible information has been received or a reasonable suspicion exists of his having been so concerned for purposes of inquiry.
Under an amendment, journalists and media persons have also been included in the list of people, departments and installations against whom attacks and intimidation would be dealt under this law. Through another amendment, the bill said that an anti-terrorism court may, for reasons to be recorded, grant extension in the period of detention for up to thirty days at a time, but the total period of detention shall not exceed ninety days.
It mentioned that if any or all office bearers, activists or associates of a proscribed organisation form a new organisation under a different name, upon suspicion about their involvement in similar activities, the said organisation shall also be deemed to a be proscribed organisation and government may issue a formal notification of its proscription. Under the amended bill the offences under this act will investigated by a police officer not below the rank of inspector, and if the government deems necessary it may constitute a joint investigation team.