Political parties, civil society term Protection of Pakistan Bill a ‘draconian’ law
KARACHI: Speakers at a consultative workshop on Wednesday discussed controversies involving the Protection of Pakistan Bill and its implications if it was passed in its present form by the Senate.
They unanimously opposed the bill by describing it a ‘draconian law’ and said it violated many articles of the constitution aimed at safeguarding fundamental human rights of citizens of the country.
Participants belonging to various political parties and civil society organisations took part in the debate on ‘dialogue on democracy and pro-citizen legislation’ organised by the Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) at a hotel.
Javed Jabbar, a former minister and author, said Pakistan had the mixed record in introducing legislations.
He said the country had achieved a good level of growth in terms of state and government institutions, but could not attain the required level of development.
He questioned the inclusion of word ‘Pakistan’ in the widely disputed law, which he said could not justify ‘malevolent’ intentions of its authors.
“We have both bad and good laws. This law we are discussing is intended to give arbitrary powers to the state, which the society will have to stop. It is not going to serve for Pakistan’s betterment but the government and certain agencies,” said the former senator.
He said Pakistan had grown big as a state, but it had not developed as a state. He said no law should grow a tumour in the society’s heart and brain.
While suggesting that the consultative process should continue, Mr Jabbar questioned implications involved, which he said needed to be addressed seriously.
He demanded that the armed and paramilitary forces at all levels were sensitised to human rights.
Naseer Ahmed of the SPO said Pakistan was not protected, if its citizens were not.
He claimed that the law contradicted the very constitution. He said that Pakistan was signatory of a host of laws, however, good laws were not implemented and bad laws came in force before being passed.
Hassan Mangi, who represented the federal human rights ministry, spoke about every issue but the law in discussion.
He said the ministry had recognised social organisations for consultation. He reiterated that many laws related to women and religious minorities had been introduced and more were in the pipeline.
Advocate Noor Naz Agha explained the controversial clauses of the bill and questioned whether the law-enforcement agencies had pressured the government to make such a piece of legislation. She said such laws could be made in emergency situations.
She said the bill was against the Article 8 of the constitution, which was enough to rubbish the entire document.
She said the bill allowed arrest of anyone on suspicion; people could be detained anywhere and the right of privacy had been denied.
While echoing Mr Jabbar’s apprehensions, she said the law-enforcement agencies were not sensitised to human rights, which put them at liberty to abuse rights.
“The clause in the bill regarding the killing of someone in good faith is utterly vague. Where is the fair trial, where is judiciary? The right of an appeal is not with the high court but with the Supreme Court,
which means an accused is denied of one full level of appeal and that too within 15 days, which is difficult for many people,” she said, adding that all those trials would be in camera and not public trials.
She said the bill had upturned constitutional practices by asking the accused to prove one’s innocence. Through the law, the nationality of an accused could be cancelled. The bill makes a judge to see the joint interrogation team’s report as admissible while children and women could be detained, even those of age less than 15 years.
Irum Farooque, a member of the Sindh Assembly from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement called it a ‘black and draconian law’, which, according to her, was against the Articles 9, 10, 8, and 25 of the constitution.
She said if the government was keen to invoke Article 6 for sedition, the violation of such articles also merited for sedition.
She said the ruling PML-N should have consulted with the opposition about it. She said his party workers were being kidnapped. She called for a unified opposition against the law, otherwise, she added, it would spare no one.
Abdul Khaliq Junejo, head of the Jeay Sindh Mahaz called it a 19th century law. Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf’s Khurrum Sherzaman said his party had suggested 40 amendments in the bill. He said what difference had remained between a democratic government with such a law and a martial law regime.
Sindh Taraqqipassand Party’s representative called it a legal attack on people, Qaumi Awami Tehrik said it was part of atrocities continued for 66 years over the suppressed communities. Same was the view of representatives of the Sindh National Movement, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam (F), Sindh United Party and the Labour Party.
Representatives of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and Jamaat-i-Islami also spoke.
A leader of the Awami National Party left before his turn came. There was no PML-N representative in the meeting.