ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly Friday unanimously adopted Anti Terrorism (Amendment) Act 2014, aimed at strengthening effectiveness of law enforcement agencies to tackle heinous crimes.

The house also discussed budget presented by the government on June 3, with opposition members criticising the budgetary proposals saying the finance minister painted a rosy picture of economy.

The house, with thin presence of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and absolute absence of MQM legislators, witnessed speedy legislation as, probably in the shortest period of time, three bills including The Anti Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2014, Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill 2014 and The Service Tribunal (Amendment) Bill 2014, were passed.

The ATC bill moved by Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Barjees Tahir provides for amendment in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATC) 1997. The House accorded its consent to the bill clause by clause. The Senate passed the bill with some amendments two days ago.

The amended bill would deal with terrorism and elements supporting the terrorist outfits, which are involved in their financing and money laundering inside the country. After amendments, the Act now would bind security forces to seek permission from a senior police officer or a magistrate before opening fire on suspects. It is contrary to previous provisions of giving powers to law enforcing agencies to shoot any suspect at sight.

The statement of objects and reasons say: “Due to the increasing terrorism in the country, more legislative measures are required to enhance the effectiveness of the law enforcing agencies in tackling heinous crimes, especially conferring powers of investigation on Rangers.”

Through an amendment in ATC 1997, the firing orders (as last resort in peculiar circumstances) has been given to a police officer ofBS-17 and equivalent rank in case of a member of armed forces or civil armed forces or by an on-duty magistrate.

However, the decision to fire shall in no case extend to the inflicting of more harm than is necessary. And, any case of resultant death or grievous injury shall be reviewed by an internal inquiry committee. Also, the Act allows punishment of up to 2 years with imprisonment and/or fine, with permission of government, to an investigation officer who dishonestly and falsely involves, implicates or arrests a person in case of scheduled offence.

In sub section (2) following provisio has been added allowing JIT to investigate the detention orders issued by the armed forces or civil armed forces. The JIT shall be comprising members of armed forces or civil armed forces, as the case may be, intelligence agencies and other law enforcement agencies, including a police officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police. The JIT shall complete investigation within 30 working days and forward it directly to court.

Where inquiry is not completed within 30 days from the recording of the FIR, the investigation officer of the JIT shall within 30 days, after that period, forward an interim report and the court shall commence the trial on the basis of it, unless, the court decides that the trial may not commence.

Sub Section (7) has been substituted asking court to decide the case within 70 days after holding day to day trial. On failure, the matter shall be brought to the notice of the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned for appropriate directions. The amended Act allows federal government to transfer the investigation of any case from one place to any other place in Pakistan.

Opening the debate on federal budget 2014-15, Leader of Opposition in NA Syed Khursheed Shah said the budgetary proposals as well as non-implementation of PML-N government’s claims to tailor the these proposals by taking the parliamentarians onboard were hollow.

Shah taking advantage of the PM’s presence in the house asked him to follow the traditions of the PPP’s government in legislative business, saying the performance of incumbent government was very poor in this regard. The opposition leader came down hard on the government’s move to implement budgetary proposals even before the approval of the parliament. “It is breach of privilege of the house,” he said and expressed doubt on the government’s ability to achieve revenue collection target.

The house also passed the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill 2014, to amend the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973, and the Services Tribunals (Amendment) Bill 2014 to amend the Services Tribunal Act 1973. The Services Tribunal Bill seeks to bring appointments of tribunal members in line with the procedures for judicial appointments, making the tribunals autonomous.