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Legal experts reject PPO

Updated Jan 25, 2014 09:27am


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Fears abound that the amended PPO may turn the country into a 'security state'. — File photo
Fears abound that the amended PPO may turn the country into a 'security state'. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Rights activist Asma Jehangir has expressed fears that the amended Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) will lead the country to the path of becoming a ‘security state’ and away from the welfare state its people long for.

“I can understand that the government finds it difficult to meet the demand of the armed forces in weeding out growing militancy, but we need a middle path through reforms to tackle the issue,” she said while talking to reporters at the Supreme Court building.

“At a time when our past policies are haunting us, with a number of people gone missing from Fata and Pata and their kin searching for them, fingers being pointed at security forces for their enforced disappearances, we cannot afford to make the country a security state under the guise of PPO.

“The ordinance is an indictment of the security forces as if they are acting illegally or are involved in the disappearance of missing persons.”

The former head of the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan suggested that the National Assembly’s standing committee concerned should seek legal opinion from bar associations to bring the law in conformity with the constitution and ensure that it did not violate fundamental rights.

And instead of proclaiming the law in the entire country, she proposed, the government should invoke emergency powers as enshrined in the constitution at a limited scale to suspend fundamental rights in selected areas troubled with the conflict.

“Our central concern should be the protection of people and not protection of the security agencies and police,” she said, and added that such laws would strengthen “adventurers of future” by becoming a tool in their hands.

Referring to section 9 of the PPO which allows security forces to conceal the location of detained persons, Ms Jehangir said the provision would give legal cover to enforced disappearances and added that it was not proper to set up safe custody houses in the country.

“You can not establish small Guantanamo Bays in Pakistan.”

She said whereabouts and names of detained persons should be notified to the registrar of the high courts or political agents in Fata.

About section 3(3) which allows handing over interned person to police or any investigation agency, she said that without the role of magistrates that was simply terrorism.She also criticised the provision that says that the burden of proof to establish innocence rests with the person arrested by security forces.

Similarly section 16 that dealt with the transfer of cases to a special court denied family and lawyers access to arrested persons, she said.

The government should not enact laws that could be declared invalid and created mess, she said. “The country cannot afford torture at mass scale even in the times of war.”

Similarly Advocate Chaudhry Faisal Hussain said the PPO had put the government in a Catch-22 situation. “When there are complications in transparent execution of strict laws in a country where political animosity and vendetta leads to malicious treatment through such laws, the government should adopt a positive and modern approach, instead of jumping back to the Dark Age,” he said.

Advocate retired Colonel Inamur Raheem, known for pursuing missing persons’ cases, compared the PPO with the Indian Rowlatt Act of 1919 that allowed the government of the day to detain any suspect of terrorism for two years without any trial.

The law was vehemently opposed by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah who later resigned from the imperial legislative council. It ignited the famous Non-Cooperation Movement in India that led to the Jalyanwala Bagh massacre and the Bhagat Singh case of parliament attack and eventually had to be repealed in 1922, he recalled.

The Supreme Court had declared in its 2010 judgment in the famous Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry case against his removal by former president Pervez Musharraf that there was no room for black laws like Rowlatt Act in Pakistan, he said.

Mr Raheem dropped hints that he may challenge the law in the apex court.

Comments (9) Closed

Bhaur Jan 25, 2014 08:43am

I support the stance of Asma Jahangir. The amended law is against basic human rights.

Amjad Wyne Jan 25, 2014 09:51am

Do not listen to her - first secure the country.

IBN-E-ASHFAQUE Jan 25, 2014 01:54pm

Mr. Nawaz Sharif do not dig your own grave PPO can also be used tomorrrow against you and your family members. Focus on reforming the judicial process in the country in a way that is acceptable to most stakeholders, consistently. It is long overdue. If you can't give economic benefits to the people, at least give Pakistanis a relatively better justice system.

Feroz Jan 25, 2014 04:39pm

By adopting such an Ordinance Pakistan will be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The level of violence will not come down, however the number of missing will rise disproportionately.

Ahmad Farooq Jan 25, 2014 05:16pm

Asma Jahangir said,

Amjad Wyne Jan 25, 2014 09:02pm

These " legal experts" have not offered a single solution for dealing with criminals

Shehzad Zafar Jan 25, 2014 10:31pm

There should not be any law in Pakistan where people can be taken away without notice to any authority. The thing must be noted that these type of laws will come up against those who enact them. Rule of law has vanished from most of Pakistan not because of existing laws but corruption, poor planning and sheer negligence from officials. Pakistan need immediate action against corrupt and inefficient officials in all forms of officer cadre which also includes army.

Anwar Amjad Jan 25, 2014 11:55pm

The existing laws have failed to punish the terrorists. Any miscreants caught by the police are set free by the courts to commit the same crime again. The number of police and security forces martyred is now running into thousands and how many terrorists have been charged and hanged so far? None - perhaps. If the present wave of terrorism is to be controlled then police and security forces need to be empowered and PPO is one such effort. The writ of the government is the fear of the police and the security forces which needs to be restored in some areas of the country. If PPO is misused then the government can always bring in more legislation to rectify the situation.

Omar Qadir Jan 27, 2014 07:26pm

First of I fully support Ms Jahangir and she stands correct this law is seriously against human rights. General public should understand this law will create serious problems. God forbid if agency picks you under any false impression, how will you return home?

Secondly, it's not Ms Jahangir's duty to give solutions for the problem of terrorism, she is an advocate not a legislator, the law against terrorists or protection of state is the job of state and it's relevant institutions.

Thirdly, Pakistan is not in a state of war, these are undoubtedly bad moments but we have state machinery working. No mater how many culprits are being freed, there should be no law that is against human rights. If those culprits are getting free, police and security agencies should do more work to collect evidence against them. Police and agencies can ask for state of the art equipment and should clean themselves out of political recruitment and nepotism.