The Senate unanimously passed the Fair Trial Bill 2012 on Friday in a session marred by back-to-back walkouts by both opposition as well as government allies.
The bill – which has already been cleared by the National Assembly – was tabled in the upper house of Parliament by Law Minister Farooq H Naek. Neither side of the aisle opposed the proposed law. Deputy Chairman Kazim Baloch presided over the proceedings.
The Fair Trial Bill 2012 empowers spy agencies to intercept private communications in order to catch terrorists. The bill triggered a controversy after certain quarters felt that the wire-tapping powers would threaten privacy and civil liberties.
Lawmakers from the Awami National Party (ANP) staged a walkout in protest against the fresh wave of target killings in Karachi and statements by Interior Minister Rehman Malik predicting more terrorist attacks in the country’s economic capital.
At the same time, senators from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) also walked out of the house to express displeasure with the imposition of governor’s rule in Balochistan.
“Rehman Malik continues to threaten people by predicting further deterioration in the law and order situation, while he himself is on a leisure trip in London,” said ANP Senator Zahid Khan.
“How can he be the interior minister when he flees the country whenever the law and order situation worsens, leaving people at the mercy of terrorists … Karachi is burning while he enjoys his foreign trips,” he added.
“We walk out because of the irresponsible attitude of the interior minister,” said Senator Khan before he and his fellow party lawmakers left the house.
JUI-F Senator Haji Ghulam Ali drew the house’s attention towards CCTV footage of the shooting of two clerics from Jamia Binoria in Karachi aired by several TV channels on Thursday.
“Despite the fact that the CCTV footage clearly shows the killers, law enforcement agencies remain clueless,” said Senator Ali. “We don’t need such inefficient and ineffective government and police force.”
Another JUI-F Senator, Talha Mehmood lodged a protest against governor’s rule in Balochistan.
“If the government doesn’t lift governor’s rule, we will stage a sit-in outside the office of the Senate chairman,” he warned.
Earlier, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Jafar Iqbal condemned the killing of religious scholars in Karachi. He claimed that the Sindh government had lost its writ in Karachi, adding that it would be better to replace the provincial government with a neutral set-up.
“Our government ousted the provincial government in 1999 and imposed governor’s rule when renowned scholar Hakim Saeed was assassinated,” he recalled.
Responding to Iqbal’s statement, Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Saeed Ghani recalled that the PML-N had imposed governor’s rule in 1999 not in the interest of people, but after losing the support of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. He maintained the move had been intended to block PPP’s way.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2013.