Pakistan president set to sign anti-terror laws

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Islamabad, Jan 6 (IANS) Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain was set to sign a new bill into law after both houses of parliament Tuesday unanimously approved tough anti-terror measures, including establishment of military-led special courts for the hearing of terrorism-related cases.

The National Assembly and the Senate also approved an amendment in the Army Act to empower the military courts to try accused in terrorism cases, Xinhua reported.

Under the amendment, anyone who belongs to any terrorist group or organisation and uses the name of religion or a sect and wages war against Pakistan will be tried under this act.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif thanked the lawmakers for their support and told the Senate that the law was needed to “completely root out terrorism from the country.”

Official sources said that the government would now send the approved bill to the president for his signature.

Members of Islamic parties Jamiat ulema-e-Islam (JUI) Jamaat-e-Islami did not take part in the voting.

The main opposition Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf also abstained from the voting as the party has boycotted the parliament as part of its anti-government protest.

A total of 247 in the 342-member National Assembly, or lower house of the parliament, voted in favour of the amendment and none present in the house opposed. The house rejected amendments proposed by Jamaat-e-Islami in the legislation that sought removal of the word “religion and sect” from the draft.

The votes in both houses were more than the two-third majority required for an amendment in the Constitution.

In the 104-member Senate, a total of 78 present in the house voted in favour of the legislation, according to the Senate chairman. No one opposed the legislation; however, the six JUI-F senators abstained.

The provisions of the two bills shall remain in force for a period of two years from the date of their commencement.

The government opted for the constitutional amendments after the Taliban massacred over 140 students and teachers in a brutal attack on an army-run school in Peshawar city Dec 16.

The military courts will put on trial members of “any terrorists groups or organisations using the name of religion or sect and (which) raises arms or wages war against Pakistan or attacks armed forces of Pakistan and law enforcement agencies, or attacks any civilian or military organization in Pakistan”, Xinhua reported.

The new laws say those will also face military trial who kidnap any person for ransom, store or carry explosives, firearms, instruments, articles, suicide jackets or vehicles designed to be used for terrorist acts.

A person who receives or provides funding from any foreign or local sources for such illegal activities and acts or does any act to over-awe the state or any section of the public or sect or a religious minority or to create terror or insecurity in Pakistan will be punished under this act, according to the draft.

The bills provide that any person who is alleged to have abetted, added or conspired in the commotion of any offence falling under this law, shall be tried under this act.

No person accused of any offence shall be prosecuted without the prior sanction of the federal government, the bills say. Any political party registered under the law of the country will not come under the new law.

The federal government shall have the power to transfer any proceedings in respect of any person who is accused any of these offences, the law says.

The bill says that the extraordinary situation and circumstances demands special measures for speedy trial of certain offences related to terrorism, waging war, or insurrection against Pakistan and prevention of acts threatening the society of Pakistan by any terrorist group using the name of religion, or a sect and members of such armed groups, wings and militias.

The law says Pakistan faces grave and unprecedented threats to its integrity because of armed and insurgent groups who are using the name of religion or sect by groups of foreign or local funded elements including warriors using the name of religion or a sect.

Those who will be captured in combat with armed forces and other law enforcement agencies will be tried in the special courts.

According to Geo News report, the 21st amendment to the constitution and amendment to the Pakistan Army Act 1952 were tabled by Law Minister Pervaiz Rashid.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the military courts would only deal with those who want to play the game of bloodshed and fire in the country.

He said steps were being taken to implement the National Action Plan on counter-terrorism.