Pakistan parliament okays tougher anti-terror laws

The Pakistan parliament Tuesday adopted a constitutional amendment that toughens anti-terror laws, including establishment of military-led special courts for the hearing of terrorism-related cases.

Islamabad: The Pakistan parliament Tuesday adopted a constitutional amendment that toughens anti-terror laws, including establishment of military-led special courts for the hearing of terrorism-related cases.

The military courts would put on trial members of "any terrorists groups or organisations using the name of religion or sect and (which) raises arms or wages war against Pakistan or attacks armed forces of Pakistan and law enforcement agencies, or attacks any civilian or military organization in Pakistan", Xinhua reported.

The National Assembly or lower house of parliament required a two-thirds majority for the approval of the amendment. A total of 247 members in the house of 342 voted in favour of the amendment and none present in the house opposed the measure.

Members of two major Islamic parties -- Jamiat ulema-e-Islam and Jamaat-e-Islami -- abstained from the voting on the 21st Constitutional Amendment. Lawmakers belonging to a main opposition Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf also did not attend the session because of its anti-government protest.

The house rejected amendments proposed by Jamaat-e-Islami in the legislation, which wanted removal of the words "religion and sect" from the draft. Jamiat ulema-e-Islami, which is also an ally of the ruling coalition, complained that it was not taken into confidence before the legislation.

The government opted for the constitutional amendments after the Taliban massacred over 140 students and teachers in a brutal attack on an army-run school in Peshawar city Dec 16.

The new laws say those will also face military trial who kidnap any person for ransom, store or carry explosives, firearms, instruments, articles, suicide jackets or vehicles designed to be used for terrorist acts.

A person who receives or provides funding from any foreign or local sources for such illegal activities and acts or does any act to over-awe the state or any section of the public or sect or a religious minority or to create terror or insecurity in Pakistan will be punished under this act, according to the draft.

The bills provide that any person who is alleged to have abetted, added or conspired in the commotion of any offence falling under this law, shall be tried under this act.

No person accused of any offence shall be prosecuted without the prior sanction of the federal government, the bills say. Any political party registered under the law of the country will not come under the new law.

The federal government shall have the power to transfer any proceedings in respect of any person who is accused any of these offences, the law says.

The bill says that the extraordinary situation and circumstances demands special measures for speedy trial of certain offences related to terrorism, waging war, or insurrection against Pakistan and prevention of acts threatening the society of Pakistan by any terrorist group using the name of religion, or a sect and members of such armed groups, wings and militias.

The law says Pakistan faces grave and unprecedented threats to its integrity because of armed and insurgent groups who are using the name of religion or sect by groups of foreign or local funded elements including warriors using the name of religion or a sect.

Those who will be captured in combat with armed forces and other law enforcement agencies will be tried in the special courts.

According to Geo News report, the Constitution (21st Amendment) Act, 2015, shall remain in force for two years from the date of its commencement and shall cease to be part of the constitution and shall stand repealed on the expiry of that period.

The 21st amendment to the constitution and amendment to the Pakistan Army Act 1952 were tabled by Law Minister Pervaiz Rashid.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the military courts would only deal with those who want to play the game of bloodshed and fire in the country.

He said steps were being taken to implement the National Action Plan on counter-terrorism.

"We are presently fighting the war of Pakistan`s defence," he added.

He said the entire nation and the political parties stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pakistan Army.

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