Jamaat’s bill seeks curtailment of agencies’ power
By: Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD, Feb 4: Three Jamaat-i-Islami Senators have submitted to the Senate secretariat a constitution amendment bill seeking a reduction in the powers of intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to detain people.
The bill moved by Prof Khurshid Ahmed, Prof Muhammad Ibrahim and Afia Zia suggests amendments to Articles 9 and 10 of the Constitution which deal with “security of a person” and “safeguard as to arrest and detention” of people and “right to a fair trial”.
A Jamaat spokesman told Dawn that the bill had been submitted on Friday after an increase in the number of missing persons and constant misuse of the provisions of “preventive detention” by the intelligence agencies that arrest people without getting prior permission or informing the relevant authorities and courts.
Through an amendment, the JI senators who will retire in March have also suggested insertion of a new clause (2) into Article 9 of the Constitution. It says: “No person shall be given in foreign custody without the permission of high court of the province.”
The bill, a copy of which is available with Dawn, suggests four amendments to Article 10 of the Constitution, demanding that the maximum period of three months for preventive detention without being heard should be reduced to one month.
“This bill proposes to reinstate the maximum duration of one month for preventive detention without being heard, as it was in the original text of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, before Third Constitution Amendment made in 1975, that had increased this period to three months,” says the “Statement of Objects and Reasons” attached to the bill.
It says: “Forced disappearance through intelligence agencies or other ever has taken form of state terrorism. Hundreds of Pakistanis are allegedly kept in the custody of state agencies without any opportunity of being heard at any judicial forum; while their families know nothing about the whereabouts of their loved ones. Recently some very violent
incidents have occurred, the tales of which go to the agencies.
“The intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies have been misusing the provisions related to preventive detention in the Constitution of Pakistan, which are undoubtedly meant for exceptional circumstances.”
In order to guarantee human rights to every citizen, the bill states: “It is necessary to cut the powers of intelligence agencies in case of preventive detention to a reasonable limit and ensure the right of fair trial for every person detained.”
Similarly, the bill says that a detained person should to be informed of the charges against him “as soon as possible, but not later than one week”.
The Third Constitution Amendment had increased such limit to “15 days”.
The bill “binds the detaining authority to establish contact between the detainee and his family within one week after his detention as it obligates the presentation of such person before competent judicial authority within a maximum period of one month for his defence”. Presently, the expression “earliest opportunity” due to its ambiguity is widely misused by state agencies, the JI senators explain in the bill.
The bill seeks to abolish the illogical practice of non-disclosure of facts and non-production of relevant documents before the review board constituted by the high court or the Supreme Court under the chairmanship of a serving member of the superior judiciary, as given in the Constitution.
“In case a person is detained without affording him the opportunity of fair trial and without informing his relatives or any of his rights is infringed, the authority making order of preventive detention and persons carrying out such illegal order shall be deemed to have committed the offence of abduction or wrongful confinement and shall be tried in the court
of law,” the bill reads.
Through the bill, the JI senators have also proposed that the review board, required to be formed under the Constitution to review the cases of detained persons under preventive detention “shall consist of sitting judges of the superior judiciary in order to ensure complete transparency and impartiality”.