ISLAMABAD: Some of the speakers at an event here on Monday rejected the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) as a draconian law, saying in its present shape the law gave powers to security agencies to infringe the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed under the constitution.

During the panel discussion on “Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO): its legal implications, effect on human rights and how far will it help the state fight terror”, the speakers said the PPO was inconsistent with the established law of the land.

Athar Minallah Advocate, while terming the law draconian, said it was perhaps meant to regularise enforced disappearances.

He pointed out that under the Ordinance a person can be arrested on the mere suspicion that he might commit a scheduled offence and that too without any warrant.

He said once a person is detained and the investigation cannot be completed within 24 hours, the investigating officer on his production before a special judicial magistrate can get authorisation of detention for up to three months.

He said the most disturbing offence under the law was that even if the civil society organised a protest demonstration against loadshedding, the protesters can be fired upon on the suspicion that they might damage the state property.

He was of the view that if implemented without suitable amendments the law would deteriorate things instead of bringing any improvement to them.

“The real issue is to have the rule of law and build civil institutions. Civil liberties must be protected,” he remarked. He, however, expressed the hope that the parliament would review the hastily-drafted piece of legislation and introduce amendments to it, making it acceptable before its passage.

He said a person used to call him seeking his help in a case without revealing his identity. He later disclosed his identity as Adnan Rasheed - a high-profile prisoner in Bannu jail. Mr Athar expressed his surprise over the easy access to mobile phones in jails by criminals.

Former ambassador Jehangir Ashraf Qazi observed that the law appeared to be politically motivated. “The civil society must oppose it even at this stage,” he remarked.

Ejaz Haider said people caught with explosives were let out on bail. He said this all happened because there was no protection for judges. “You are destined to live in a world which is going to be intrusive,” he observed.

Pointing out that the urban centres were replete with soft targets, he said it was time to stop criticism and discuss a workable strategy.

Another speaker observed that the recipe tried in the 90s was being tried again. He said it had become fashionable to try to fix all difficulties by amending the laws.

He said there were many things which needed improvements. He regretted that the police stations did not have the record of FIRs registered with them.

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