Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Friday said that he was helpless against banned religious outfits rallying across the country under the banner of the Pakistan Defence Council due to the absence of stringent laws.
“The only solution is revamping laws. However, a bill for an amendment in the Anti-Terrorism Act is pending before the Senate standing committee for two years,” Malik said in a response to criticism by cabinet member, Sheikh Waqas Akram from Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q). The minister said that these organisations were holding rallies after changing their names and prevailing laws did not provide him with the powers to stop them.
The Anti-Terrorism Bill, 2010 seeking amendment to the existing Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 was placed before the Senate in July 2010, and is still awaiting approval by the standing committee on interior. The National Anti-Terrorism Authority Bill, meant to set up an independent body to fight increasing incidents of terrorism, is also awaiting parliamentary approval.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had directed the interior and law ministries last October to propose comprehensive amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Bill, 2010, with an aim of imposing deterrent punishments to those involved.
Earlier, Waqas Akram had grilled the interior minister saying “the minister had lied while holding the provincial government responsible for rallies of banned outfits.” He informed the house about having raised the issue during the cabinet meeting, but the interior minister had raised a finger at the Punjab government instead.
“It should be a source of shame for the Interior Minister that the Pakistan Defence Council (PDC) is going to hold a rally here in Islamabad (at the commercial centre of Sector G-9 which is known as Karachi Company).” Akram added that even hoisting of flags by these outfits was a crime under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Perturbed by the news of the PDC rally in Islamabad, Akram said “how can you fight the war against terror if you cannot stop their rally in the capital.”
Sahibzada Fazal Karim from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) endorsed the views of Waqas Akram saying these outfits are making a mockery of the government through their rallies and processions.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2012.
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