While the Nawaz Sharif Government managed to get the Protection of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill passed late on Monday night in the National Assembly, the Opposition parties, which tore up the bill in the House are determined to take the fight to the Supreme Court.
The controversial law which started off as an ordinance, was referred to the Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics which debated the bill and approved it while proposing some amendments.
The bill, which is expected to give more powers to the security forces to tackle terrorism and powers to search and arrest apart from preventive detention of up to 90 days and excluding the public from proceedings of the special court.
The ordinance, which was notified in January, was not approved by the Senate and the bill too is going to run into difficulties in the Upper House.
The Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf announced on Tuesday that it will challenge the bill in the Supreme Court and that it had the support of other parties like the Jamat e Islami and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had voiced alarm at the promulgation of the Protection of Pakistan (Amendment) Ordinance 2014 in January and said the law violated constitutionally guaranteed rights and legitimised illegalities.
In a statement, HRCP said: "There are far too many things in the law that rights respecting individuals would find difficult to stomach. The main concerns include giving the authorities the power to withhold information regarding the location of any detainee, or grounds for such detention; detention of a person in internment centre instead of ordinary jails; creating new classifications of suspects such as "enemy alien" or "combatant enemy"; extending the preventive detention period for any suspect; and legitimising illegal detention and enforced disappearance through giving retrospective effect to the law.
The HRCP said when the apex court had declared prolonged and unannounced detention by security forces illegal and called for legislation, ordinances like these seemed to endorse such long periods of detentions. Citing exceptional circumstances to justify the derogation of rights and for delegation of exceptional powers to the law enforcers is particularly worrisome in the context of enforced disappearances in Pakistan, the Commission said. The ordinance will only compound the saga of enforced disappearance in Pakistan and strengthen impunity.
The ordinance is not very different from the bill, and members of the Opposition feared that Pakistan could be turned into a police state using this law and its stringent provisions would be misused. While there are no two opinions about the need to tackle terrorism, there are provisions in the existing law which could be efficiently implemented, some felt.
Keywords: Protection of Pakistan (Amendment) bill, Pakistan Protection bill, Nawaz Sharif Government, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Protection of Pakistan (Amendment) Ordinance 2014