ISLAMABAD: The interior ministry has sent a summary to the prime minister for the renewal of the Protection of Pakistan Act (POPA) for two more years. The law is set to expire on July 15.
Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Law and Justice Barrister Zafarullah Khan told The Express Tribune that the interior ministry had sent the summary to the premier through the law ministry. The decision is still awaited.
He said it was premature to say whether the act would be extended or not because the decision would be taken after getting input from all stakeholders.
Another senior official in the law ministry said the summary proposed extending POPA through an act and the matter be referred to parliament.
Both the ministries, he added, have also recommended the extension of the amendment in Section 11EEEE of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. Under this amended section, the security forces are empowered to detain a suspect for three months.
Rights activists say the act allows prolonged preventive administrative detention without adequate safeguards, leading to arbitrary or unlawful detentions. They allege the act authorises secret and unacknowledged arrest and gives law enforcement agencies broad powers.
Political groups, especially the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Pakistan Peoples Party, have alleged the unfettered powers given to civilian and military law enforcement agencies under POPA are being used to target their workers. They claim the law has been used to arbitrarily detain dozens of their activists.
The act, approved by the National Assembly on July 2, 2014, sought “to provide for protection against waging of war against Pakistan and the prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan”.
The law permits the security forces to shoot suspects on sight with the permission of a Grade-15 official.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has urged the government not to renew the controversial act of 2014, terming it “oppressive and ineffective”.
“In two years, not one suspect has been convicted under POPA, so we can conclude the law does not really protect people in Pakistan from terrorism and other violent acts, but instead it undermines their basic human rights,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia director, in a press statement.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2016.
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