Pak govt passes ordinance to deal with terrorism strongly

Pakistan government on Thursday brought out an ordinance amending the Anti-Terrorism Act, giving powers to security personnel to open fire before being shot at and detain terrorists for up to three months without trial.

AFP| Last Updated: Oct 10, 2013, 23:45 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan government on Thursday brought out an ordinance amending the Anti-Terrorism Act, giving powers to security personnel to open fire before being shot at and detain terrorists for up to three months without trial.

The move came after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif repeatedly emphasised on the need to plug loopholes in the existing laws to deal with the menace of terrorism.

The ordinance, signed by President Mamnoon Hussain, allows electronic evidence and trial through video link. It also calls for a witness programme to be established.

The ordinance allows cases of terrorists to be moved to any part of Pakistan and specially calls for blocking access to mobile phones in jails.

Under the new provisions, Joint Investigation Team will be formed to submit interim challans if investigation officer fails to do so within the stipulated period.

But the strongest and most potent of the new provisions is the new power given to security forces to "use force" to prevent a terrorist act.

The security forces can now open fire after forming "reasonable apprehension that death, grievous hurt or destruction of property may be caused by such act". The ordinance also replaces the phrase "when fired upon".

Widening the scope of the term "terrorist", the ordinance brings target killers, extortionists and kidnappers also in the same bracket.

The armed forces or civil armed forces will be authorised to detain a person involved in such offences for three months for investigations. Currently, they can detain a suspect for 30 days.

According to the proposed amendments, offences such as target killing, kidnapping for ransom and extortion, shall be investigated by a police officer not below the rank of an inspector or where the government deems necessary by a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) comprising of a police investigating officer and officers from the armed forced, civil armed forces, intelligence agencies and other law enforcement agencies.

The investigating officer, or the JIT, shall complete investigation in respect of cases tried by the court within 30 working days.

The report shall be signed and forwarded by the investigating officer directly to the court, according to the ordinance.

Wherein the investigation is not completed within 30 days from the date of recording of the FIR, the investigating officer or the JIT shall forward within three days an interim report to the court through the public prosecutor, it says.

For protection of judges, counsel, public prosecutor and witnesses, the government proposes that screens be used during the trial to shield witnesses, judges and prosecutors from public view.

The government also proposes to conduct such trials on the jail premises or through video link as well.

The ordinance also says that witness protection programmes may be established by the government through law or rules.