Against the national assembly’s legitimate qualms with the transgressions it justifies in its bill, the highly controversial Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) passed. It has been termed by opponents as a draconian law that gives the security agencies unaccountable power to infringe the fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed under the constitution. Proponents of PPO argue that the bill aims to combat terrorism, ostensibly. However, little to nothing has been said about the legal implications of the bill and its dark effect on human rights in a country where other laws already take citizens for granted, including the Blasphemy Law.

The most crucial component to take into serious consideration is the geo-political placement of the PPO: Pakistan. Ours is a country where the legislation often works against the ordinary man and his fundamental right to live life with dignity sans discrimination. Given how forced disappearances have become a routine practice after 9/11, the PPO is the legal blanket authorities can throw over human rights violations. Evident as it is, it provides legal justification for abductions, extrajudicial killings, torture and unfair trial. One cursory glance at the bill will reveal how any kind of premises can be entered and searched without warrant while citizen property can be confiscated for as long as the law enforcing agencies deem necessary. To make matters even more Machiavellian, a parallel judiciary will be set up to interrogate the detained. Thus, “special courts and special prosecutors” through the ordinance will have the power to question those arrested. Anyone guilty of resisting enforcement of law or legal process can possibly spend up to 10 years behind bars. In simple terms, courts under the Constitution of Pakistan become moot.

It is what it is: A proto-fascist bill that insidiously increases the power given to the police, military and para-military forces, Rangers, Frontier Corps and Frontier Constabulary in a land where hundreds of civilians already suffer displacement and police brutality under the pretext for nipping terrorism in the bud. Opposition must not be mistaken as sympathy for terrorism. It is extremely necessary to critically analyze the gaping lacunae in the bill – particularly its inconsistency with Article 8, Article 10-A and Article 24 of the Constitution. The NA should understand that the promulgation of the PPO negates all procedural guarantees in the Criminal Procedure Code, and if they sincerely value our constitutional rights, it is about time they demand that those loopholes be rectified.