ISLAMABAD - The government is all set to extend ‘Protection of Pakistan Act’ which permits security forces to shoot suspect with the permission of a grade-15 official.

The POPA, set to expire on July 15, 2016, was opposed by religio-political parties may get further extension by ‘presidential ordinance’ or through majority of votes in the National Assembly.

“Government will summon a short National Assembly session to give legal cover to the POPA or extend it through presidential ordinance,” parliamentary sources shared with The Nation.

They said that government side may avoid giving legal cover to the act through parliament, as opposition side has already strongly opposed the government for slapping ordinance.

‘The Protection of Pakistan Act’ provides protection against waging of war against Pakistan and the prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan . The opposition parties expressing some concerns had supported the government for this bill on 2 July 2014.

Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid at the time of passing this bill from NA assured that the government had taken on board all the leaders of parliamentary parties in order to get their recommendations regarding the bill. The POPA was enacted in July 2014 for a period of two years to combat “waging of war or insurrection against Pakistan” and to provide “speedy trial” for offences “threatening the security of Pakistan”.

Some of opposition parties during last two years strongly criticised the government on this particular act. This law defines “enemy alien” as “a militant” whose identity “is unascertainable as a Pakistani, in the locality where he has been arrested or in the locality where he claims to be residing, whether by documentary or oral evidence; or who has been deprived of his citizenship by naturalisation”.

It defines “militant” as “any person who wages war or insurrection against Pakistan , or raises arms against Pakistan , its citizens, the armed forces or civil armed forces; or takes up advocates or encourages or aids or abets the raising of arms or waging of war or a violent struggle against Pakistan; or threatens or acts or attempts to act in a manner prejudicial to the security, integrity or defence of Pakistan; or commits or threatens to commit any scheduled offence; and includes; a person who commits any act outside the territory of Pakistan for which he has used the soil of Pakistan for preparing to commit such act that constitutes scheduled offence under this act”. The law has given the powers to law-enforcement agencies to “enter and search, without warrant any premises to make any arrest of to take possession of any firearm, explosive weapon, vehicle, instrument or article used, or likely to be used and capable of being used, in the commission of any scheduled offence”.

Under the law, convicted persons will have the right to appeal before a high court against their convictions. Earlier, a convicted person had only the right to appeal before the Supreme Court.

A clause of it says: “The government, joint investigation team, armed forces or civil armed forces may, in the interest of the security of their personnel or for the safety of the detainee or accused or intern, as the case may be, or for any other reasonable cause withhold the information except from a high court or the Supreme Court regarding the location of the detainee or accused or intern or internment centre established or information with respect to any detainee or accused or interne or his whereabouts; provided that the judge or judges to whom the disclosure is made may decide to treat it as privileged information in the public interest; and the government may not in the interest of the security of Pakistan disclose the grounds for detention or divulge any information relating to a detainee, accused or interne who is an enemy alien or a militant.”

It further says: “Any person apprehended in the course of preparation, attempt or commission of a scheduled offence and from whom any weapon, material, vehicle, article or instrument designed for or capable of being used to commit or to facilitate the commission of the offence of bombing, suicide bombing or target killing or grievous hurt shall be presumed to be guilty of preparation, attempt or commission, as the case may be, of a scheduled offence.”