Legislation in the house: Govt aims law revamp to chase terrorists

Published: September 5, 2012
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The federal cabinet will take up the draft of amendments in
the anti-terrorism laws today. DESIGN: NABEEL ABDUSAMAD.

The federal cabinet will take up the draft of amendments in the anti-terrorism laws today. DESIGN: NABEEL ABDUSAMAD.

ISLAMABAD: 

With known terrorists running scot-free, the government has received much flak for its weak anti-terrorism legislation, at home and abroad.

However, it has finally decided to tighten the noose.

The federal cabinet will take up the draft of amendments in the anti-terrorism laws today (Wednesday), and is likely to approve it before presenting the amended bill in parliament.

Critics say weakness in the prosecution process allows for known terrorists to remain free.

The purpose of amending the existing anti-terrorism laws is to purge them of the loopholes that benefit those arrested on suspicion of terrorism, sources said.

The government had earlier proposed amendments in the laws and a draft bill has been pending before the Senate Committee on Interior for a while.

The committee is headed by Senator Talha Mehmood whose party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has reportedly been against the proposed changes.

The government is also reportedly introducing a Fair Trial Act in parliament that would allow for admission of electronic evidence in the court of law.

The untouchable law

While it plans to plough through a host of laws, including those on anti-terrorism, minority seats and power theft, the government has decided not to touch the blasphemy laws, fearing not just a strong backlash from right-wing circles, but also general fallout from voters in the election year.

The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), at a parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday, decided to go ahead with other legislation but dropped the idea of touching the blasphemy laws entirely.

“Majority of the members were of the view that this is a very sensitive issue and touching it at this point could have serious ramifications for the party,” said a PPP legislator.

Minority seats

Meanwhile, the minister in charge of national harmony, Dr Paul Bhatti, said the government’s allies have already assured their support to a bill calling for an increase in minority seats in the national and provincial assemblies.

The bill would need a constitutional amendment, and thus required two-thirds vote from both houses of parliament. Dr Bhatti said he was also talking to opposition parties to garner their support for this amendment.

Talks on interim setup delayed

Scheduled talks between the government and opposition parties to discuss political transition were put off on Tuesday after the PPP sought more time to consult its allies on its choice for caretaker prime minister.

Top negotiators from the ruling PPP and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were due to hold first overt talks to discuss the interim setup after several weeks of back-channel contacts.

The composition and scope of a parliamentary commission to create new provinces was also at the agenda of the meeting that would kick start formal negotiations on an interim administration.

But the PPP informed the PML-N that it could not hold the meeting because one of the delegates — Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah — had been called to Karachi by President Asif Ali Zardari to look into the prospects of holding local government elections in Sindh.

Insiders, however, told The Express Tribune that talks were postponed because the PPP wanted to consult its allies — the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) — before opening negotiations with the main opposition party.

A PML-N official said its team was ready to receive PPP leaders at the Punjab House in Islamabad but was informed about the postponement at the last moment. Both sides were hopeful of holding the meeting again in a couple of days but no new date has been announced so far.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • gp65
    Sep 5, 2012 - 8:08AM

    This is progress – big time.

    Recommend

  • Danish Akhundzada
    Sep 5, 2012 - 8:53AM

    Are existing or their enforcement the issue in catching, trying and punishing terrorists or other law breakers

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  • Mirza
    Sep 5, 2012 - 9:17AM

    “The purpose of amending the existing anti-terrorism laws is to purge them of the loopholes that benefit those arrested on suspicion of terrorism”
    Time for the PC judges to shoot down this law so they can continue to set free all the terrorists. What a shame that the bill is sitting in the committee under JUI leader for a long time while the terrorists are free in the country.

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  • salman
    Sep 5, 2012 - 9:26AM

    Not touching the blasphemy law? You just lost my vote PPP.

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  • JQ
    Sep 5, 2012 - 10:15PM

    Fair Trail Act! Is this act applicable for a foreign jurisdiction? Does our courts actually dispense justice under the theme of just, equity and fair play? Whom do you think would derieve benefit from this newly born legislation when the existing laws have failed to deliver justice to common people? Why we are burdening the courts and lawyers?

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  • janaan
    Sep 6, 2012 - 12:15AM

    Mullahs are the main reason for destruction of society in Pakistan. they should be tackled first and rest every thing will be ok.

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  • Abdullah
    Sep 7, 2012 - 8:39PM

    This is a sham! – first release all the innocent citizens kidnapped.

    These laws are nothing but another attempt by democracy to take away our freedom.

    These laws will only be applied now on innocent citizens who dare question govt policies.

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  • Sep 7, 2012 - 11:00PM

    still noting will happen . terrorists will do whenever they want to

    ground intelligence needs to be improved

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