ISLAMABAD: The Protection of Pakistan (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated on Jan 22 for providing legal cover to enforced disappearances has been challenged before the Supreme Court.
The joint petition, submitted by advocates Inamur Raheim and Tariq Asad on Monday, sought a declaration from the court that the legislation was a draconian law as it was inconsistent with the fundamental rights of citizens.
The ordinance, which authorised the security forces to withhold information about the identity of a detained person and the place of detention, has been widely criticised by rights activists and politicians, especially Asma Jehangir who alleged that the ordinance would push the country further towards a security state rather than a welfare state.
“The PPO is a conspiracy against the armed forces by dragging them in civil matter that would eventually affect their efficiency and lower their respect among the people,” Inamur Raheim said while talking to Dawn.
The federal government, through the secretaries for law and interior, as well as the principal secretary to the president, are respondents in the petition.
The PPO does not provide any protection to the citizens of Pakistan who are abducted by law enforcement agencies in an unlawful manner, the petition alleges, adding that no law, including the preventive detention laws, is above the constitution.
“But here the PPO provides ample powers to law enforcement agencies to infringe upon the fundamental rights of citizens, especially when the liberty of a man could not be curtailed and that no government, which was elected by the people for the exclusive benefits of the people, could take away that freedom unless it is absolutely necessary,” the petition said.
“The constitution also guarantees the inviolability of dignity of man, which had also been greatly emphasised by the Supreme Court in a 1996 judgement suggesting that the meaning of life means enabling a man not only to sustain life but to enjoy it.
“Article 14 of the constitution also provides that the dignity of man and the privacy of home have to be respected at all cost and that the fundamental right to preserve and protect the dignity of man under Article 14 is unparalleled.
“The constitution emphasises that no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person would be taken except in accordance with the law. Similarly nobody would be prevented from or be hindered in doing that which is not prohibited by law, besides no person will be compelled to do which the law does not require him to do.
“Moreover, Article 10 also provides safeguards from arrest and detention or allowed detention without being informed of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.
“Every person who is arrested and detained in custody is required to be produced before a magistrate within a period of 24 hours of such arrest, excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the nearest magistrate, and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate.”
The petition also emphasised Article 10-A, which ensures the right to fair trial.