Cabinet okays amendment to ATA; rangers empowered to control Karachi situation
21 September, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Friday approved an amended to the Anti-Terrorism Bill, empowering the law enforcement agencies, especially Rangers, to tackle the runaway violence in Karachi.
The bill was passed in the cabinet meeting held under the chair of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The bill, yet to be tabled before parliament for approval, also provided an effective mechanism to protect the witnesses in cases of terrorism. The prime minister asked the federal government to extend all possible cooperation to Sindh government to improve law and order situation in Karachi, the business hub of the country. The cabinet discussed the overall law and order situation prevailing in the country, with a special emphasis on Karachi.
Prime Minister Nawaz said that it is the responsibility of the government to provide security of life and property to all citizens of the country. He said the situation in Karachi calls for strict measures in order to restore peace in the commercial hub of the country. He observed that the ongoing Karachi operation has brought good results, and the common man has expressed satisfaction over the improvement of law and order situation. The draft amendment bill includes recommendations of the Cabinet Committee formed on September 4.
The draft bill gives the law enforcement agencies the powers of preventive detention of up to three months for any offence under the Anti-Terrorism Act relating to security or defence of the country, public order, target killing, kidnapping for ransom and extortion.
The draft amendment also provides for protection of witnesses, judges and prosecutors. The measures also include using screens to shield witnesses, judges and prosecutors from public view; trial in jail premises or through video link; investigation and trial in another province and ensuring prevention of access to mobile phones for prisoners in jail. The proposed bill also includes measures for expeditious disposal of cases and prevention of unnecessary delays in the courts.
The meeting recommended that the proposed bill include a provision that Rangers, after prior warning as considered necessary against persons committing a terrorist act or scheduled offence, would be authorised to shoot or order to shoot before they are fired upon as provided under the existing law. The cabinet also approved co-financing of Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project (NJHP) and negotiations of additional loan agreement of Saudi riyal 375,000,000 ($100 million).
The loan will reduce the funding gap of $375 million for the under-construction project which will generate 969MW. The terms of the loan are soft as there is only 2% annual charge and the maturity of the loan is 20 years, including a grace period of five years. The cabinet also approved, in principle, Prime Minister's Programme for the Youth, which will provide incentives in the field of business and education to the youth.
The prime minister took strong notice of the absence of some federal ministers from the National Assembly and Senate and said that strict action will be taken against those ministers who remain absent from the House concerned to avoid answering questions of the parliamentarians. The issue was raised by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan during the cabinet meeting. He said that absence of the ministers from the Parliamentary session brings a bad name to the government and this practice should be checked.