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Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Bill: No blanket shoot-on-sight for LEAs

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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly passed three bills on Friday, in what is possibly a record time, in the presence of a scattered number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and the absence of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) members.

HunzaNews, June 7th, 2014

The Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2014, Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill, 2014, and The Service Tribunal (Amendment) Bill, 2014 were passed during a session also attended by the prime minister.

Contrary to previous provisions that gave law enforcement agencies sweeping powers including shoot-on-sight authority, the Anti-Terrorism Amended Bill-2014, moved by Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Chaudhry Birjis Tahir now binds security officials to take permission from a Grade-17 officer or a magistrate before opening fire on suspects.

The bills have already been passed by the upper house two days ago and members of the Senate, which is dominated by opposition parties, approved the bill on the stipulation that their recommendations would be incorporated in any version passed.

The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill also focuses on elements supporting terrorist outfits, including financial support and money laundering. The bill states that witness statements can be recorded in-camera for their protection and suspects involved in anti-state activities, extortion or target killings can be detained for 90 days.

Taking advantage of the prime minister’s presence during the session, opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah criticised the PML-N government for ‘zero performance’ on both the economic and legislative fronts. The ruling party’s first year in government was ‘disappointing and frustrating’, he said while opening debate on the budget on Friday.

“I can say that the first year’s performance of the incumbent government remained zero,” he said. “Neither was the government’s tax target achieved nor was any relief provided to the masses.”

He criticised the government for implementing its tax proposal prior to approval from parliament, saying this was a ‘breach of the house’.

The opposition leader reminded the government that the previous Pakistan Peoples Party-led government had “broken the record of maximum legislation during five years”.

“The PML-N government never consulted the opposition parties over key legislative issues and it is the reason that it miserably failed to pass even a single legislation,” he said.

With regards to foreign loans, Shah said, “The PML-N government promised the nation that it’ll break the begging bowl, but in one year, the government proved that it enlarged the bowl and received a greater amount of foreign loans compared to the PPP government’s five years,” he maintained. He claimed that “every Pakistani citizen owes Rs84,000 due to the government’s excessive borrowing”.

He complained that the finance minister had promised last year to bring the budget to the assembly as early as April in order to incorporate recommendations from parliament, which he failed to do so. Neither did a parliamentary monitoring committee formulate the budget, as was promised, he said.

He mentioned that the government fixed Rs2,475 billion as its revenue collection target in the outgoing fiscal year but reduced the amount two times to Rs2,275 billion due to the tax department’s poor performance.

Express Tribune

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