PPO moved in Senate amid Opp’s protests

  • Minister Zahid Hamid says bill changed considerably
  • Raza Rabbani says govt will not allow provision to detain suspects for 90 days and powers for security forces to shoot suspects on sight
  • ANP’s Haji Adeel says PPO ‘a black law from Raiwind’
  • Bill referred to Senate Committee on Law and Justice for consideration

The federal government on Friday moved the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance Bill 2014 before the Senate amidst strong protests from the joint opposition in the Upper House.

Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid on behalf of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan tabled the bill which was subsequently referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

The bill has already been passed by the National Assembly.

“We have changed the bill considerably and as far as clauses relating to detentions are concerned, they have been taken from already existing law of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and clauses relating to location of detainees have been extracted from Article 10 of the Constitution,” Hamid said.

Speaking on behalf of the opposition leader, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Mian Raza Rabbani suggested that the government reconsider the bill in the backdrop of the 27 human rights conventions which Pakistan is bound to abide by due to the European Union’s GSP Plus status.

Rabbani added that the PPP would not allow the inclusion of the provision to detain suspects for up to 90 days and the powers that the bill gives to forces to shoot suspects on sight.

Senate members from the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) also opposed the bill saying it may contradict human rights conventions in the future.

“It’s a black law from Raiwind,” ANP Senator Haji Adeel said.

Moreover, ANP Senator Zahir Khan said “it’s alarming that the government has succeeded in passing the bill from the National Assembly without consulting the opposition…but the opposition will not accept it in its present form at any cost”.

JUI-F Senator Haji Ghulam Ali said that the approval of such a controversial piece of legislation from the Senate would not be possible without amendments made to it.

The proceedings of the House were subsequently adjourned to 4pm Monday.

The National Assembly, where the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) enjoys a majority, passed the bill in the beginning of April. The passing was however amid protests from opposition members and condemnation from international rights groups such as Amnesty International.

The situation in the Senate is slightly different with the opposition parties having 67 out of 104 seats — with 39 seats of the PPP, 12 of ANP, seven of MQM, five seats of Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) and four of Balochistan National Party – Awami (BNP-A).

The law grants sweeping powers of arrest and detention to security forces. It permits the security forces to shoot suspects on sight, detain them at secret locations for up to 90 days and carry out raids without search warrants. The security forces can also carry out secret trials.

Lawmakers have warned that the law is too broad and that anger over abuses by the police and army is already fuelling growing militancy.