Islamabad: Emphasising that fear of the law is a deterrent to brutal acts, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday said his government will back security agencies through a stringent law to deal with extortionists, kidnappers and terrorists.
His remarks came a day after President Mamnoon Hussain promulgated an ordinance to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 to give more powers to security forces.
"We must ensure that our law enforcement agencies are supported through an enabled and stringent law to deal with extortionists, target killers and terrorists," Sharif said in a meeting with Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid.
"New anti-terror legal amendments are the first step in this regard," he said.
Sharif said the fear of a strong law will deter brutal acts. "Every gap in any law is being plugged. I will support all lawful actions of our law enforcement agencies to protect the life and liberty of the people of Pakistan," he said.
The new amendments empower security personnel to open fire before being shot at and to detain terrorists for up to three months without charge. They also allow the use of electronic evidence and trials through video link.
The amendments further allow authorities to set up a witness protection programme.
The ordinance allows cases of terrorists to be moved to any part of Pakistan and specifically calls for blocking access to mobile phones inside jails.
Under the new provisions, a joint investigation team will be formed to submit interim challans if the investigating officer fails to do so within the stipulated period.
But the strongest and most potent of the new provisions is the power given to security forces to "use force" to prevent a terrorist act. Security forces can now open fire after forming "reasonable apprehension that death, grievous hurt or destruction of property may be caused by such act".
Widening the scope of the term "terrorist", the ordinance places target killers, extortionists and kidnappers in the same bracket.