The government of Pakistan has – within a short period of less than two weeks – promulgated two draconian laws, ostensibly, to combat terrorism.
The first ordinance was promulgated on October 11. It has amended the Anti-Terrorist Act, 1997, and curtailed fundamental rights of citizens. Now the government has gone ahead and promulgated another ordinance on October 20. This one is called “Pakistan Protection Ordinance.” It hands even greater powers to law enforcement authorities (LEA). Now LEA can enter and search any premises without warrant and confiscate any property without permission from any lawful authority.
The ill intentions of the government have not been disguised. Parliament, and thereby open debate on the provisions of law, has been avoided to unilaterally push through these decisions. Both ordinances are manifestly ultra virus and unconstitutional.
The October 11 ordinance, which amends the Anti-Terrorist Act, 1997, provides extraordinary powers to LEA. It allows LEA to detain suspects up to three months, and thereby to curb the process of fair trial by such long detention. It allows for conviction on the basis of incriminating text messages, phone calls, and email. It grants LEA powers to shoot at sight. Telephones and internet facilities can be freely tapped and monitored. The ordinance has become a grave threat to right to privacy.
The October 20 ordinance, ‘Pakistan Protection ordinance’, covers issues related to the security of the people and attempts to clamp down on anti-state elements with swift justice and timely LEA action. This ordinance allows the constitution of joint investigation teams so investigations by security agencies and police can be conducted in all heinous crimes.
The October 11 ordinance was issued by the President of Pakistan while he was travelling in Saudi Arabia, whereas official copies of the October 20 ordinance have not been provided to the media. The presidential secretariat has only disclosed its key features and justification, in a detailed hand out to the media.
The Daily Dawn, quoting official sources, has reported that under the October 20 ordinance, LEA – including police, military and para-military forces, Pakistan rangers, Frontier Corp and Frontier Constabulary – would be able to enter and search any premises without warrant. The arrested suspects would not be entitled to bail. These forces, on suspicion, can confiscate property, arms, and other household goods without permission from any lawful authority. And anyone found guilty of resisting enforcement of law or legal process will spend 10 years behind bars.
Separate police stations will be designated for professional and expeditious investigations of specified crime. The cases will be prosecuted by federal prosecutors – a new force of prosecutors will be created, parallel to the existing prosecution branch. And special jails have been designated to detain hardened criminals.
The government has been authorised to create a parallel judiciary through these ordinances. Anti-Terrorist Courts and special prosecutors for terrorist crimes are already in operation. However, through the October 20 ‘Pakistan Protection Ordinance’, the government will make “special courts and special prosecutors” to protect the country. By issuing these ordinances, the government has made the courts under the constitution as redundant.