Islamabad: Amid a wave of terror strikes
across the country, the Pakistan government on Tuesday sought to
amend the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, proposing stricter
provisions for the prosecution and punishment of persons found
involved in such acts.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik moved the
Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2010 in the Senate or upper
house of parliament.
He asked the House to suspend rules to immediately
take up the bill as there was an urgent need to amend the law.
Under the amendments proposed in the bill, a person
arrested on suspicion of links to terrorism can be detained
without charge for 90 days.
Taliban militants have wrought carnage across
Pakistan, killing more than 3,570 people over the last three
years in various suicide and bomb attacks.
Causing damage to government and private property by
force and operating illegal FM radio stations will be
considered acts of terrorism under the proposed changes.
The detention of persons under the amended law cannot
be challenged in any court and their trial will be conducted
behind closed doors, the bill stated.
The minimum punishment for persons convicted under
the act will be 10 years in prison, the bill further stated.
The bill stated that the growing menace of terrorism
and attacks on armed forces, law enforcement agencies and
government offices have adversely affected the security
The "extraordinary circumstances demand more
stringent laws to curb the terrorist violence and to punish
those found involved with a view to create adequate
deterrence," it said.
Malik said loopholes in the existing act had allowed
perpetrators of major attacks to go scot-free. However,
opposition members objected to Malik’s assertions and said the
bill should be discussed in detail by the Standing Committee
on Interior as it related to future of the country.
Senator Safdar Abbasi of the ruling Pakistan
People`s Party supported the opposition and said amendments
proposed to 25 sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act should be
discussed by the Standing Committee.
Malik agreed with the suggestions made by the
Senators but requested the Chairman to set a timeframe for the
deliberations and bringing the bill back to the House.
Leader of the House in the Senate, Nayyer Bokhari,
proposed that the Standing Committee should be given time till
Friday and the bill should be returned to the Senate by
After evolving consensus, Acting Chairman Mir Jan
Jamali referred the bill to the Standing Committee with a
direction to complete its deliberations by Friday and to send
the bill to the House by Monday so it could be discussed for
the next three days.