Not only does the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) take away citizens’ rights under the Pakistani Constitution, it is also against international law that nuclide the UN Convention of Torture. The Senate on Monday passed the amended the PPO with a majority and no political party opposing it? Did our senators even read the text of the PPO? With chronic absenteeism at senate meetings, our senators do a great service to the nation if they even show up. Much less be expected to protect citizen rights and argue for the rights and protections of their constituents. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar for one wasn’t even present.

The amended bill gives law enforcement agencies (LEAs) the mandate to shoot a person on suspicion; but only from a law-enforcement agency official or police officer of grade-15 or above. Already, the police and population act on their own version of justice. Examples of mob brutality and police brutality surface every day. Now this law gives even more reason to LEA officials to shoot on sight. Rather than sweeping laws, it is the enforcement of smaller laws that needs to be ensured to protect civil liberties. At police stations, suspects are often not aware of their rights, not read any rights and have no recourse to family and lawyers. The PPO allows secret agencies to detain anyone, believed to be linked with terrorism, for a period of 120 days without access to a lawyer, their family or a court. And these suspects will have to prove their innocence for securing bail or release. There are also provisions for the monitoring of phone calls, emails and bank accounts of all those suspected of terrorism.

The bill has been touted as being anti-terrorism but makes sweeping laws about how to deal with a range of crimes. Some of the text of the PPO goes much beyond the protection of Pakistan due to terrorism. The list of ‘scheduled offences’ in the bill includes crimes against computers including cyber crimes, internet offences and other offences related to information technology etc. Additionally, the killing and kidnapping of foreign visitors and tourists is an offence (though there is no additional security for ordinary Pakistani nationals). The only word to describe the text of the ordinance is arbitrary. The PPO is almost undebated, and unfocused. Instead, parliamentarians should be working toward measures that would speed up the trial process and make the judiciary actually convict terrorists. The sad fact is that the government finds it easier to meet out justice on the streets than in the courts.