PESHAWAR: The provincial assembly on Friday passed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Witness Protection Bill, 2021, to protect witnesses and others connected with criminal cases, including those of terrorism and heinous offences.
Under the new law, the government will establish the Witness Protection Board consisting of seven senior officers and headed by the secretary of the home and tribal affairs department as the chairman.
Labour minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai told lawmakers that the legislation was very important as currently, the province had no legal protection for witnesses.
According to Clause 5 of the bill, the board shall frame policy guidelines for the purpose of this act, submit policy guidelines to government for approval, oversee and monitor the implementation of the policy guidelines, spearhead and supervise the performance of the functions of the units and implement any other direction of government in connection with this law.
Declares Geelani’s death irreparable loss for Kashmir freedom struggle
The government shall establish two witness protection units. One will deal with offences of terrorism and the other with heinous offences.
The government, on the recommendations of the board, will appoint the head of each unit and such other members in the unit, as the government may determine or in the manner as may be prescribed.
The house approved an amendment moved by Pakistan Peoples Party member Nighat Yasmin Orakzai to Clause 8 (Sub-Clause C) to increase age limit for a witness from 16 years to 18 years at the time of the recording of evidence.
The law says that subject to Sub-Section 2, a witness or any other person connected with the criminal proceedings and person closely related to the aforesaid person, may apply for protection. Sub-Clause 2 of Clause 6 says that the provincial police officer, the director general, prosecution or the court trying an offence of terrorism or a heinous offence may, through home and tribal affairs department , direct a unit concerned for assessing the risk or continued risk to any person concerned directly or indirectly with such criminal proceedings.
Under the law, the court may direct that a special measure be taken to prevent the witness from being seen while coming to or entering the court to give evidence or while leaving the court in a manner that he continues to see or be seen by the court, the public prosecutor, the legal representatives, acting in the criminal proceedings or any other person appointed by the court for that purpose.
“When directed by the court, the unit shall take special measures so that the court may examine a witness through video link at a location outside the court.”
The law also says the reporting of the identity of a person, connected with an offence of terrorism or a sexual offence or the identity of the members of his family shall be prohibited in print, electronic or other media.
Moreover, any person, who contravenes the provision of Section 15 of this act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years but shall not be less than thirty days and with fine which may extend to rupees five million but shall not be less than rupees one hundred thousand.
Another amendment moved by Nighat Orakzai to Clause 18 of the law was also admitted under which the government by notification will frame rules within six months.
Earlier, the assembly adopted a resolution expressing deep concern about the death of veteran Kashmiri leader and former chief of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Shah Geelani and declared him the torch-bearer of the freedom movement in the India-occupied valley.
The lawmakers condemned the Indian forces for snatching the body of Syed Ali Geelani from his family and not allowing Kashmiris to participate in his funeral prayer. They asked the federal government to highlight the ‘barbaric’ Indian act at international forums.
The members declared the death of Geelani an irreparable loss for freedom struggle.
They also began a debate on an adjournment motion tabled by Inayatullah Khan of the opposition Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal over the rising crime incidence in Peshawar. Mr Inayatullah, while referring to media reports, said 62 cases of murder and attempted murder were reported in July and August.
He said the cases of rape, targeted killings and other crimes were on the rise, so the government should take measures to ensure the protection of public life and property.
The chair adjourned the sitting until 10am on Sept 10.
Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2021