LAHORE – The ‘Investigation for Fair Trial Bill 2012’ unanimously passed by the National Assembly recently, will further strengthen the intelligence and security agencies to launch “covert operations openly” against the militants at a time when the country is confronting multiple security threats, according to security experts.

The much-needed legislation has granted more powers and liberty to the law enforcing agencies to hunt, intercept, and interrogate the terrorists, their supporters, and even financiers under legal protection so that they could be brought to justice.

“Due to the constraints of time and space during operations against suspects; sometimes it is not practically possible to seek the permission of a judge for issuance of warrant of surveillance or interception. Such eventualities should be covered in the Bill,” a retired military officer said.

In case a judge is not available, he explains, an Army Brigadier or grade 20 government officials should be allowed to grant permission for action under the new Bill.

“There are many cases where criminals use fake identities for their activities. This Bill should have the adjustability in procedure to handle such cases,” a former Director of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) said and preferred his name not to be mentioned.

Though some opponents of the Bill believe that it poses a serious threat to the privacy of the people yet the intelligence officials say it has empowered them to put militants under surveillance, trace, and catch them and get them punished through the courts by submitting high-tech evidences.

The law-enforcing agencies and intelligence outfits remain vigilant and well-prepared to deal with any eventuality created by heinous activities of terrorists. Their professional skills and acumen are being harshly tested by terrorists who leave no opportunity unexploited to achieve surprise as they target the most sensitive areas and assets of vital importance, an official in the Interior Ministry said.

On the other hand, he added, the LEAs and intelligence agencies were somewhat getting discouraged and demoralised as their actions were being challenged through courts of law and they were questioned for the validity and legality of their decisions or actions.

“It seemed the initiative was being transferred from intelligence outfits to the terrorists who often were let free by the courts for lack of evidence and other procedural penal flaws. Hence, LEAs and intelligence support units felt the grumbling pinch when they found that their sacred but hazardous mission were not being acknowledged by the law, thus rendering them helpless and incapacitated in the face of criminal terrorists. “

In order to provide adequate legal cover to LEAs and intelligence agencies there was a dire need to undertake legislation which could allow the LEAs to perform their duties without any fear. Since Pakistan is facing worst type of terror attacks, such legislation was a must to unearth the terrorists involved in guerilla war in the country, he said.

Following enacting of the Bill, the intelligence operatives are also empowered to submit circumstantial evidences directly before the courts even in cases of terrorism registered with the police, he added.

“The Bill sends a message to the terrorists that the entire nation was united in their efforts to bring them to book. It also asserts openly for the international community to observe and evaluate how serious Pakistan was, in fighting the menace of terrorism,” the official said.

The bill has been a milestone in the history of legislation, providing legal cover to the agencies concerned to tape the phone calls and watch the e-mails as part of collection of evidence through electronic means. The Bill envisages that electronic material and the relevant data on the phone calls would now be permissible in the court of law.

The new law also asserts openly for the international community to observe and evaluate how serious Pakistan was, in fighting the menace of terrorism. No doubt the detractors are going to castigate the Bill as it strengthens the security forces to not only remain pro-active in their efforts to fight the terrorists but also remain legally covered under the law to bring them to book.

Human rights organisations have acknowledged in their research findings that magnitude of terrorists activities has surged to an unbearable extent. Therefore, it is imperative for them to support the passage of the Fair Trial Bill.

Though the word Law Enforcing Agencies (LEAs) has been used in the recently passed Bill, the police are unlikely to be equipped with the required apparatus to carry out such missions. However, the Federal Investigations Agency (FIA), Intelligence Bureau (IB) would also get benefitted by the law besides the MI and ISI.