In the ‘Pakistan Protection Ordinance’, the minimum punishment for terrorists involved in various crimes has been set at 10-year imprisonment. On the face of it, the ordinance is aimed at strengthening the hands of law-enforcement agencies against terrorists and ensuring speedy disposal of cases by the courts.
The media wing of the President’s Secretariat didn’t release an official copy of the ordinance, but gave its key features and justification in a detailed handout issued on Sunday. The handout said: “The extraordinary disposition dictates unusual dispensation. New legislative initiatives have been proposed in line with international best practices to declare that: The constitution and rule of law shall be our overarching umbrella.” The minimum punishment given under Article 7 of the Constitution as explained in Chapters VI, VII, VIII and IX of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, Pakistan Arms Act, or Foreigners Act 1946, etc, has been re-determined at 10 years. Earlier, a convict under the chapters could get away with fine.
In future, anyone found guilty of resisting enforcement of any law or legal process will spend 10 years behind bars. “Writ of the state shall be restored with full might of the law; those to pursue fruit of terror and fear, regardless of nationality, colour, creed or religion shall be treated as enemy aliens and dealt with strictly without any compunction.” Another significant feature of the ordinance is to provide complete protection of law to all civil and military law-enforcement agencies and their personnel to discharge their mission within the parameters of the constitution that deal with unusual circumstances in which the federation can intervene in provincial affairs. A provincial government can also seek help from the federal government. The handout said millions of non-Pakistani origin, notably those who had arrived after the 1979 Afghan crisis, “shall not be allowed to abuse the temporary liberty to commit depredation”. Their local collaborators, handlers and facilitators and landlords providing unreported accommodation and protection shall not be spared.
The ordinance said joint teams would be constituted for investigations by security agencies and police in all heinous crimes committed in areas where civil armed forces were invited to aid civil power. Separate police stations will be designated for professional and expeditious investigations of specified crimes and prosecution through federal prosecutors. The measures appear to have been included in the ordinance to help the law-enforcers engaged in the Karachi operation. Under the ordinance, special federal courts shall be designated to render inexpensive justice with promptitude as mandated by Article 37 of the Constitution, along with designated jails to detain hardened criminals. The handout said syndicated crime in all its forms and manifestations would be responded by a proportionate use of state force under the law. However, it cautioned for judicious but effective use of preventive detentions whose period was enhanced to 90 days in cases involving serious crimes by gangs and mafias. Sources said that under the ordinance the law enforcement agencies would be able to enter and search any premises without warrants.
The arrested suspects would not be entitled to bail. An ordinance for amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, was issued on Oct 11, which allowed Pakistan Rangers to shoot criminals with just prior warning. In that ordinance, electronic evidences such as emails, text messages and recorded telephone calls were declared admissible. Preventive detention of up to 90 days was also allowed through the amendments, along with special protection measures for witnesses and the judges hearing cases involving terrorists. Giving justification for the new legislative measures, the official statement said Pakistan and its people had been exposed to undeclared and thankless wars that had proliferated from the country’s neighbourhood since 1979.
“The elements hostile to Pakistan’s existence in collaboration with unscrupulous locals have since claimed 40,000 lives of old and young, of all ages and religious denominations in the second campaign that began in 2001; many more were injured, disabled or uprooted. Over three-decade-long presence of many million aliens in the country generated its own social complexities. “The people and its valiant forces have rendered unprecedented sacrifices: Over 4,000 soldiers and officers lost their lives to ensure that the world at large remained at peace during the last 11 years alone. A colossal damage of over $100 billion was inflicted to social and physical infrastructure. As unproductive expenses multiplied, for bare minimum subsistence and sustenance additional loans of over $50bn were added during the period, besides $8bn per annum for debt servicing. Increasing reliance on imports further squeezed and strained public books and private pockets,” it said -Dawn