The National Assembly unanimously passed on Wednesday the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2013, which aims to remove shortcomings in provisions relating to terror financing.
The government presented the new bill without waiting for Interior Minister Rehman Malik to do the honours.
The new bill will pave the way for law enforcement agencies to take action against those who finance acts of terrorism and those who benefit from the proceeds of such acts.
“It was a much-needed legislation, which we should have framed a long time ago,” said National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza.
Before Law Minister Farooq H Naek presented the bill in the lower house, Interior Minister Rehman Malik complained, once again, in the Senate that lawmakers were not able to approve the new anti-terrorism legislation “that has been pending in Parliament for too long now.” This, he said, was one of the hindrances for security agencies in taking effective action against terrorists.
However, according to the National Assembly’s business agenda, the interior minister was supposed to move and have the bill passed from the house.
One of the new clauses says that the federal government or a provincial government may pick an officer to freeze, seize or detain a terror suspect’s money or property for a period of 15 days.
“The refusal to freeze or seizure under this section without just cause shall be an offence under the bill and shall be liable to conviction to imprisonment of up to five years or fine up to Rs500,000 or both,” said another clause.
However, it added that no prosecution, suit or other proceedings shall lie against the government or the officer for anything done or intended to be done in good faith.
In the new definitions, the law substitutes the words “proscribed organizations” with “an organisation concerned [with] terrorism or a terrorist”. It defines “money” as “coins or notes or any currency, postal orders, money orders, bank credits, bank accounts, letter of credit, traveler cheques, bankers’ drafts in any form, electronic, digital or otherwise and such other kinds of monetary instruments or documents as the federal government may by order specify.”
Meanwhile, in its analysis report on the bill, the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) critiqued the draft legislation for being limited to only the financing of terror. It only covers a small portion of the overall ATA, the analysis stated.
“Given the demands for a more comprehensive anti-terrorism law in Pakistan, it was rather astonishing that the government has chosen to introduce an amendment targeted at terrorist financing only,” Pildat stated.
Under the new amendment, the definition of terrorism has also been revisited to make it more precise. The relatively more ‘general’ definition of terrorism in Pakistan’s ATA 1997 has been criticized by national and international jurists.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2013.
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