The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), in a statement released, has asked the government of Pakistan not to renew the Protection of Pakistan Act (POPA), 2014, as it 'oppressive and ineffective'.
“In these two years, not one suspect has been convicted under POPA, so we can conclude that the law doesn’t really protect people in Pakistan from terrorism and other violent acts, but instead it undermines their basic human rights protections,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia director in the statement.
The statement added the Ministry of Interior has confirmed that it planned to renew POPA for another two years.
The ICJ termed POPA as a 'hastily drafted law' which will make 'exceptional circumstances become a permanent part of the legal system'.
“POPA is not only an oppressive law, it has also proven to be completely ineffective. Instead of renewing the law, the Government should focus on strengthening the existing criminal justice system, which is suffering because of years of neglect," added Zarifi in ICJ's statement.
The National Assembly in 2014 passed the Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014, which permits security forces to shoot suspects on sight with the permission of a grade-15 official.
The Protection of Pakistan Bill which seeks “to provide for protection against waging of war against Pakistan and the prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan” will provide the law enforcers with additional powers.
Salient features of the Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014
It defines “enemy alien” as “a militant” whose identity “is unascertainable as a Pakistani, in the locality where he has been arrested or in the locality where he claims to be residing, whether by documentary or oral evidence; or who has been deprived of his citizenship by naturalisation”.
The bill defines “militant” as “any person who wages war or insurrection against Pakistan, or raises arms against Pakistan, its citizens, the armed forces or civil armed forces; or takes up advocates or encourages or aids or abets the raising of arms or waging of war or a violent struggle against Pakistan; or threatens or acts or attempts to act in a manner prejudicial to the security, integrity or defence of Pakistan; or commits or threatens to commit any scheduled offence; and includes; a person who commits any act outside the territory of Pakistan for which he has used the soil of Pakistan for preparing to commit such act that constitutes scheduled offence under this act”.
“Any person against whom there are reasonable grounds that he acts under the directions or in concert or conspiracy with or in furtherance of the designs of an enemy alien” will also be treated as a militant.
The law has given the powers to law-enforcement agencies to “enter and search, without warrant any premises to make any arrest of to take possession of any firearm, explosive weapon, vehicle, instrument or article used, or likely to be used and capable of being used, in the commission of any scheduled offence”.
However, it says that “after the search, the circumstances justifying it and the items recovered shall be reported within two days to special judicial magistrate of the area by the officer conducting the search”.
According to the law, the order to shoot a person on suspicion will come only from an official of a law-enforcement agency or a police officer of grade-15 or above. Moreover, it binds the government to order a judicial inquiry, if any law-enforcement agency official opens fire on suspected terrorists.
Under the law, convicted persons will have the right to appeal before a high court against their convictions. Earlier, a convicted person had only the right to appeal before the Supreme Court.
A clause in the bill says: “The government, joint investigation team, armed forces or civil armed forces may, in the interest of the security of their personnel or for the safety of the detainee or accused or intern, as the case may be, or for any other reasonable cause withhold the information except from a high court or the Supreme Court regarding the location of the detainee or accused or intern or internment centre established or information with respect to any detainee or accused or interne or his whereabouts; provided that the judge or judges to whom the disclosure is made may decide to treat it as privileged information in the public interest; and the government may not in the interest of the security of Pakistan disclose the grounds for detention or divulge any information relating to a detainee, accused or interne who is an enemy alien or a militant.”
It further says: “Any person apprehended in the course of preparation, attempt or commission of a scheduled offence and from whom any weapon, material, vehicle, article or instrument designed for or capable of being used to commit or to facilitate the commission of the offence of bombing, suicide bombing or target killing or grievous hurt shall be presumed to be guilty of preparation, attempt or commission, as the case may be, of a scheduled offence.”
Giving “explanation”, the law states: “A cellphone or other instrument that contains logs or evidence of calls or messages made or received that facilitate the preparation, attempt or commission of such an offence, shall be deemed to be such an instrument and any record thereon or therein shall be admissible in evidence.”