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Senate body puts anti-terrorism bill on hold

09 January, 2014

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Wednesday suffered a setback in a parliamentary panel when opposition parties as well as one of its allies forced it to put on hold anti-terrorism bill until their reservations are addressed.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior, led by PML-N MNA Rana Shamim Ahmed Khan, took up the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Ordnance 2013 and tried its level best to pass it for its laying in the House.

However, opposition parties PPP, PTI, MQM, BNP-Mengal and one of government allies JUI-F opposed passage of the bill in the present form, saying that it would be tantamount to serious violation of human rights especially on the provisions relating to 90-day preventive detention of any person who has been involved in any offence under the anti-terrorism act.

MQM legislators Asif Hasnain and Nabeel Gabol strongly protested to the provision and labelled it as violation of human rights.

State Minister for Interior Baleeghur Rahman said that "it is not a new thing as already under Article 10, law authorises 90-day preventive detention for any anti-country act".

However, it could not convince the opposition parties legislators who wanted to discuss the provision thoroughly to safeguard the human rights.

"In a country where law enforcing personnel are absolute powers to act against any person how it would be ensured that they would not violate it when the bill authorises them to detain any person," Asif pointed out.

Legislators other than the ruling party had also reservations over the composition of Joint Investigation Team (JIT), although they later agreed when the government said that it would be headed by a superintendent of police (SP) rank official.

The PTI's Dr Arif Alvi also submitted a detail note on behalf of his party on the anti-terrorism bill and said if these are not incorporated then it should be construed as the dissenting note.

During the meeting, Interior Ministry officials pleaded for the passage of legislation, saying that it is important to counter terrorism, and National Coordinator National Anti-Terrorism Counter Authority (NACTA) Amir Khawja talked about "grave consequences" if the legislation is not passed form parliament by February 10.

"Pakistan may be blacklisted internationally if the said legislation is not passed by February 10," he pointed out by referring to International Financial Task Force and measures for anti-money laundering.

Rana Shamim Ahmad Khan looked in hurry to get the stamp of committee on the said legislation, and he even said that now it is done. However, opposition party legislators opposed the business done in such haste.

More embarrassment came for the treasury when opposition persisted on the vote for the bill when it had less number in the meeting compared to opposition side because of absence of its legislators.

On the demand of opposition parties, the chair had to put the bill on hold until the next meeting, scheduled for January 13.

End.

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