Police to get sweeping powers under ATA amendment bill -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Police to get sweeping powers under ATA amendment bill

ISLAMABAD: The Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) Amendment Bill-2010, presented by the government in the Senate, suggests giving sweeping powers to the law-enforcement agencies (LEAs), police and investigators, and making the laws more stringent against terrorists.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Interior for discussion at length. Under the proposed laws, members of the proscribed organisations would neither be able to obtain passports nor allowed to travel abroad. No bank or financial institution will provide them financial assistance, loans or credit cards. Arms licences held by them would be deemed to have been cancelled. The punishment term for those involved in terror acts had been recommended to be enhanced from seven years to 10 years. The offender will also be liable to forfeiture of his property. Certain clauses have been amended under which the federal government would be authorised to trace or bug telephone calls of suspects. The police would be allowed to summon any person during the investigation process.

An amendment has been proposed in Sub-Section 6 of Clause 2 that the words intimidating and terrorising the public, social sector, business community and preparing and attacking the civilians, government officials, installations, security forces or law-enforcement agencies would be added.

Under Sub-Section 2 of Clause 2, any person possessing illegal explosive material or having an illegal link with explosives will also fall in the ambit of terrorism. Clause 3 will be replaced by clause ‘Z’ under which a person would be proceeded against under this act who awards punishment to any organisation, individual or group by taking the law into his hands or use the force unlawfully against people, groups, sects, government functionaries and LEAs or intimidate and terrorise them.

No banned organisation would be allowed to operate under new nomenclature. Any subordinate organisation would be deemed proscribed on the suspicion of having involved in the activities like those of banned organisations.

Government would have powers to issue orders for preventive detention for 90 days in connection with investigation of a person, who had remained involved in any offence under this act or a reasonable complaint had been lodged against him or a credible information or evidence has been received about his involvement in the offence. These orders could not be challenged in any court. A person found involved in the terror acts would be investigated by a police officer not less than the rank of a sub-inspector. The detainee would be produced within 24 hours before a closed-door Anti-Terrorism Court.

The FM radios found involved in promoting terrorists or terror activities would also be dealt with under the ATA. Section 21(d) suggests that no court will grant bail to the person found involved in terrorism.

Highlighting objectives of the bill, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the increased threats of terrorism and attacks affected adversely the security situation. Therefore, more stringent laws are needed to crush terror attacks.

Muhammad Anis adds: Minister for Interior Rehman Malik moved the bill in the House requesting the Chair to suspend rules for immediate passage of the bill.

He said the bill was voice of the people and the amendment would remove grey areas in the already existing law. The minister assured that the bill would not be used for political victimisation rather it was aimed at punishing terrorists who managed their release due to shortcomings in the existing Anti-Terrorist Act.

Professor Muhammad Ibrahim of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) objected to the arguments of the minister saying that the bill relates to future of the country, therefore, it should be discussed in detail at the House Committee on Interior.

Senator Safdar Abbasi also supported Prof Ibrahim and said legislation is prerogative of this House. He said amendments have been proposed in 25 sections; therefore, it should be discussed threadbare by the committee.

Shahid Bugti and Tahir Mashahdi also proposed proper deliberation at Committee as he stated that such laws were misused in the past. On this, the interior minister agreed with notions of the members though he requested the Chair to set a timeframe for deliberations and bring the bill back to the House.

Leader of the House in the Senate Nayyer Bokhari proposed that the committee should be given time till Friday and the bill should come to the House by Monday. After evolving consensus, Senate acting Chairman Mir Jan Jamali referred the bill to standing committee with direction to complete deliberations by Friday and place the bill before the House by Monday so that it may be discussed for next three days.
Source: The News