Human Rights Watch urges Senate to strike down ‘repressive’ PPO

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Criticising the recently passed Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO), the Human Rights Watch on Friday said the law threatens basic rights and freedoms in violation of Pakistan’s international legal obligations.

PPO was approved by President Mamnoon Hussain on October 20, 2013 and passed in the National Assembly on April 7, 2014 but it still requires Senate approval. The ordinance grants sweeping powers of arrest and detention to security forces.

According to a press release, the rights body called on the Senate to refuse to approve the “repressive law” and return it to the National Assembly with needed revisions.

Asia director at Human Rights Watch Brad Adams said the anti-terror laws shouldn’t be used to undermine fundamental rights. “The Protection of Pakistan Ordinance as drafted runs roughshod over rights provided under international law as well as Pakistan’s constitution.”

He urged that denying Pakistanis their universal rights and freedoms isn’t a smart or effective tool for battling terrorism. “The government should step back and fully revise the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance with input from civil society and international experts to instead craft a law that addresses serious crimes while protecting rights,” Adams said in the press release.

Under the rules if a piece of legislation is cleared by the lower house and rejected by the upper house, the Senate has to give reasons for its rejection. The bill will be referred back to the National Assembly, which will have either to rectify the bill by amending the contentious clauses and re-pass it, or it will call a joint session of the two houses, where the head count is done on combined strength.

With some seats vacant in the 342-member house, the ruling PML-N has 190 members in it and 16 in the Senate. Thus it can have a maximum combined strength of 206 members of its own in the two houses. It will still need backing of other parties to secure simple majority-over 50% votes to get the law passed in a joint session.  Currently, the NA has 339 members and the Senate has 103 members.