- Official source says govt may use PPA as ‘bargaining chip’ with military establishment; Opp not too keen on extending the sunset clause
While the Pakistan Protection Act (PPA) is about to lapse on July 15, the government is still undecided whether or not to extend the act which was originally designed to help the armed forces clamp down on militant gangs, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Under the PPA, security forces are authorised to open fire against suspects with the permission of a grade-15 official from the armed forces or the police.
The law was enacted on July 22, 2014 by both houses of the parliament for a period of two years, giving sweeping powers to the armed forces to combat terrorism.
A source in the Law Ministry said that preparations were almost complete for promulgation of the law through a presidential ordinance which may be turned into a law later, through an act of parliament. However, another source in the government said that there are divergent views in the party, which wants the government to use the law as a bargaining chip with the military establishment.
WHERE DOES THE GOVERNMENT STAND?:
“We can use the act as a bargaining chip to help build pressure on the military which is dictating us on Panama Leaks,” the source said.
The source said that the matter will be decided once Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returns home.
Asked who was opposing the extension of the PPA, the source said that some cabinet ministers thought to be very close to the prime minister wanted the PPA to be used as a bargaining chip to build pressure on the army leadership. However, the sources said the matter will be decided by the prime minister himself.
The source said that the Law Ministry has done its homework and a summary has been prepared whether the federal government wants the law to be enforced through a presidential ordinance or through a bill.
“In case the government goes for a bill, the president will summon a brief session of both houses of the parliament soon after Eidul Fitr,” the source added.
Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid did not respond to repeated calls and text messages sent at his number. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Aftab Shaikh also chose not to respond.
PTI IS FOR THE BILL:
Many of the opposition political parties are silent about the lapse of the PPA. Only the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has indicated its support for the law.
“We want to fully support the army in our fight against terrorism. However, we have not discussed the PPA yet and any decision will be made once the bill is tabled and we see the draft. But we will support any legislation enabling the army to act against terrorists,” said PTI secretary information Naeemul Haque.
No one from the PPP was available for comment. It merits mention here that the PPP leadership has also criticised the PPA in strong terms, alleging that its provincial ministers and other leaders had been victimised by the Rangers.
Religious parties including Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) opposed the law. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) another religious party but one aligned with the treasury also opposed the bill, both in the National Assembly as well as in the Senate.
Another opposition party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) may also oppose the PPA due to its reservations over the Rangers’ operation in Karachi. MQM has also been claiming that its officials are being targeted in the operation.
MQM’s senior leader Kanwar Naveed Jamil said that his party will decide the matter when the government tables the bill.
“The military establishment has targeted the MQM workers and its leaders under the PPA. The Rangers have especially abused their powers given to them under the PPA. Thousands of innocent workers of MQM have been killed, arrested and tortured. We have serious reservations about the PPA,” he said.
Wasay Jalil of MQM said the party’s Rabita Committee will discuss the issue and will share its decision with the media.
The PPA was enacted with the aim “to provide for protection against waging of war against Pakistan and the prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan”. It provided the law enforcers with additional powers.
According to the law, the order to shoot a person on suspicion can come from an official of a law-enforcement agency or a police officer of grade-15 or above. However, it binds the government to order a judicial inquiry, if any law-enforcement agency official opens fire on suspected terrorists.
Under the law, convicted persons have the right to appeal before a high court against their convictions. Earlier, a convicted person only had the right to appeal before the Supreme Court.