‘Divided’ NA puts stamp on new anti-terror laws

*PTI abstains while JI votes against Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014*Law doubles maximum prison sentence for terror convicts to 20 years

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Wednesday finally passed the Protection of Pakistan Bill (PPB) 2014 with majority vote, with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) abstaining.
Contrary to the Senate that passed the PPB unanimously, consensus evaded the legislation in the National Assembly, with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) voting against it. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended the Wednesday session of the House, however, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan was conspicuous by his absence. When Speaker Ayaz Sadiq put the key anti-terrorism legislation to vote, the House resounded with “ayes”, giving law enforcing agencies extraordinary powers to hunt down the anti-state elements. 
Following the incorporation of many amendments proposed by the opposition, the passed version of the bill was less stringent than the one that was termed draconian by the opposition parties and civil society at large. Federal Minister Science and Technology Zahid Hamid, who moved the bill, said that government has taken on board leaders of all the parliamentary parties in order to get their recommendations regarding the bill. 
He said that the government had already included the recommendations of the opposition parties before having the bill passed from the Upper House. The bill defines “enemy alien” as “a militant” whose identity “is unascertainable as a Pakistani, in the locality where he has been arrested or in the locality where he claims to be residing, whether by documentary or oral evidence; or who has been deprived of his citizenship by naturalisation”.
It also defines “militant” as “any person who wages war or insurrection against Pakistan, or raises arms against Pakistan, its citizens, the armed forces or civil armed forces; or takes up advocates or encourages or aids or abets the raising of arms or waging of war or a violent struggle against Pakistan; or threatens or acts or attempts to act in a manner prejudicial to the security, integrity or defence of Pakistan; or commits or threatens to commit any scheduled offence; and includes; a person who commits any act outside the territory of Pakistan for which he has used the soil of Pakistan for preparing to commit such act that constitutes scheduled offence under this act”.
The law doubles the maximum prison sentence for those convicted of terror offences and allowing security forces to detain suspects for up to 60 days. It allows security forces to detain suspects for up to 60 days without disclosing their whereabouts or the allegations against them. It also allows for people who have been found guilty of terror offences to go to jail for 20 years, up from ten. Security forces had been granted powers to open fire on anyone they see committing or “likely to commit” terror-related offences, but the amendment means now only senior officers can “as a last resort”.

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