NA again passes bill criminalising enforced disappearances

Published October 22, 2022
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar speaks during a National Assembly session on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar speaks during a National Assembly session on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Friday for the second time passed the bill seeking to declare enforced disappearances a heinous crime after removing a controversial section which provided for punishment to those filing false complaints.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar agreed to withdraw the controversial Section 514 from the Criminal Laws (Amend­ment) Bill, 2022, after a number of lawmakers, mostly belonging to the parties in the ruling coalition, protested over it and refused to vote for the bill in the present form.

After Mr Tarar’s statement, Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar moved the amendment seeking to omit the controversial section from the bill aimed at criminalising enforced disappearances through amendments to Pakistan Penal Code 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898.

The bill was later unanimously passed by the house which was once again clearly lacking quorum, for which the presence of 86 members (one-fourth of the total 342-member house) is required.

Minister agrees to drop controversial section upon allies’ protest

The omitted section stated that “whoever files a complaint or gives information that proves to be false he or another person has been subjected to enforced, forced or involuntary disappearance, or an attempt has been made in this regard, shall be guilty of an offence punishable up to five-year imprisonment and fine of up to Rs100,000”.

The bill was drafted by the previous PTI government and it was piloted by former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. The National Assembly had passed the bill in November last year. However, the government had to bring it back to the assembly as the Senate had passed it on Thursday with a few amendments.

The Senate is now again required to pass the bill in order to make it an act of the parliament.

As soon as the law minister presented the bill before the house for passage on behalf of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, a number of treasury and opposition members protested over it, stating that Section 514 had made the law redundant as no one would dare file a complaint in the presence of this section.

BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal was the first to raise his voice against the proposed section, stating that registering an FIR (first information report) of such cases was already a cumbersome task and those dared to file the complaint always feared that they might be abducted.

He said there were so many examples where no action was taken against the abductors despite the availability of the CCTV footage.

Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali of the JI said that everyone in the country knew about those behind such abductions, without elaborating.

“Can anyone dare file a complaint against those involved in such cases?” he asked.

Osama Qadri of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) also supported Mr Mengal’s viewpoint and called for ending the practice of “threatening and harassing” the complainants in such cases.

Independent MNA from Waziristan Mohsin Dawar said that he had already submitted a dissenting note on the bill when it was being discussed in the house committee. He asked the law minister to tell the house about the conviction rate of the criminal cases registered in the country before asking them to vote for the bill.

Shazia Marri of the PPP also urged the law minister to give serious consideration to the points raised by lawmakers.

The law minister said this particular section of the bill suggested punishment if complaint was found false or fake only after a proper trial.

“However, there seems to be a consensus [among the members] and after seeing the mood of the house, we are now dropping this Section 514,” announced the law minister amid desk-thumping by the members.

Besides this, the National Asse­mbly also passed the Inter-Gove­rnmental Commercial Trans­act­ions Bill, 2022, aimed at encouraging foreign states to have economic and business relations with Pakistan.

The house also passed a resolution condemning New Delhi on the eve of the 75th anniversary of Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir on October 27, 1947, minutes before Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf adjourned the proceedings till Monday evening.

Published in Dawn, October 22th, 2022

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