Indefinite detention gets legal cover

Published January 23, 2014
Under the new provisions in the amended law, these persons who are in detention of the security agencies will not fall in the category of enforced disappearances. — File Photo
Under the new provisions in the amended law, these persons who are in detention of the security agencies will not fall in the category of enforced disappearances. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: With the security situation worsening day by day, the government brought on Wednesday amendments through another ordinance to the controversial Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) that regulates detention for more than three months of suspects of terrorism and waging war against the country.

According to sources in the law ministry, the new ordinance has been brought in order to provide a legal cover for those persons who are in detention of the security agencies. Under the new provisions in the amended law, these persons will not fall in the category of enforced disappearances.

Besides this, the law has authorised the law enforcement agencies to detain a suspect for more than 90 days.

The opposition parties and civil society organisations have already expressed their concern over giving powers to security agencies to detain suspects for 90 days and to open fire on any person on mere suspicion that he might carry out some terrorist activity.

The new ordinance has been brought at a time when the government is struggling to get the mother ordinance passed from parliament. The original PPO had been signed by President Mamnoon Hussain in October last year and it was presented in the National Assembly in the form of a bill in November.

Despite the opposition’s protest, the government managed to get it passed from the National Assembly’s standing committee on interior on Tuesday.

A copy of the amended ordinance was placed before the Supreme Court by Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt, who said he and his team had met the chief executive late on Tuesday night.

He said it had been decided at the meeting that instead of waiting for the assembly, the bill would be implemented through the ordinance.

It was promulgated later in the day after President Mamnoon Hussain signed it.

The court, however, said it would examine the law to determine whether the legal cover pertaining to ‘missing persons’ had been given in accordance with the law and constitution.

The matter will be taken up on Monday.

On Jan 20, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja had asked the attorney general to inform the court about the status of the law on missing persons.

The court was hearing the case of missing Yasin Shah on the application of his elder brother Muhabbat Shah. The petition formed the basis of the Dec 10 verdict which had held army authorities responsible for removal of 35 persons from the Malakand Internment Centre.

Only seven of them have been presented before the court.

According to sources, under the Protection of Pakistan (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014, a combatant enemy who wages war against Pakistan or uses its soil for terrorist activities inside or outside the country will be stripped of his nationality. The period of detention allowed in such cases can go beyond 90 days.

Under Section 6 of the earlier ordinance, a specially designated officer of the interior ministry could authorise preventive detention of a person for up to 90 days if there were grounds to infer that he was acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, security and defence or external affairs of the country, public order or maintenance of supplies and services.

Under Section 5(5) of the PPO, any person arrested or detained under this ordinance whose identity is unascertainable will be considered as an enemy alien and subject to provisions of Section 14. He shall be presumed to have joined insurrection against the country.

The law says the detention of such persons will be regulated in accordance with the provisions of Article 10 of the constitution, but the legal cover will not be available to a person who for the time being is an enemy alien. The enemy alien has to establish his nationality, the law says.

The Supreme Court rejected a reply submitted by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister with an observation that filing of the report did not constitute compliance with its earlier orders.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Advocate General Latif Yousafzai sought permission to submit a proper reply by Monday.

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