ISLAMABAD/LAHORE - The federal government has enforced Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) 2013 which was promulgated last month to curb terrorism and the crimes falling in the scheduled offence.

The ordinance was not laid before the Parliament for approval because Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government was facing tough resistance both from the opposition and its coalition partners.

The ordinance designed to fight terrorism and lawlessness in Karachi and other restive parts of the country, would be fully operational in next couple of days when rules to govern the appointments under this law, designation of the Special Courts etc would be completed. On a contact, Federal Information and Law Minister Pervaiz Rashid confirmed the ordinance has been brought to effect.

According to a report Sindh government while invoking jurisdiction of the PPO has moved the High Court to seek transfer of the trial of nine high-profile cases to other provinces. These cases include the murder of journalist Wali Khan Babar, Naimat Ali Randhawa advocate, police persons Irfan Haider, Shahbaz and others.

Sources in the government informed that PML-N was not expecting that much opposition, as even its coalition partners had made it clear to PML-N leadership that they would not approve it in given shape and demanded a series of amendments in it.

The opposition parties soon after its promulgation had come out with outright rejection of the PPO and all the major political parties in opposition, including Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid), said they would not let government usurp basic human rights in the name of quelling terrorism.

The idea of carving out extra-ordinary law to deal with an extra-ordinary situation was derived from Homeland Security Act adopted by United States after 9/11 terrorist attack and a number of anti-terrorist laws in vogue in India to deal with terrorism. When these laws were introduced in US and India the public at large and civil society bodies came out in opposition of these laws.

Similarly, the PPO invited severe criticism and opposition from all quarters, including all the coalition partners of PML-N. Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam (Fazal) chief Fazlur Rehman overtly opposed the ordinance terming it complete negation of basic human rights and granting of unbridled powers to security agencies, which were already exercising powers beyond their mandate.

Smaller coalition partners like NP and PkMP leaders had advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to review the ordinance as it could not be supported by any democracy loving MPs, and it could not even get simple majority in parliament, particularly in the Upper House. Sources said that PML-N had approached the PPP to get its support for the passage of the ordinance from the parliament but Leader of Opposition in NA Syed Khursheed Shah politely refused and advised the ruling party to amend it to make it acceptable.

The MQM has also rejected the ordinance which provides for extraordinary use of force to the armed and civil forces which can use necessary force after giving a prior warning, when they deem it necessary or appropriate, against any person who is committing or is likely to commit a scheduled offence. It empowers the law enforces to shoot at sight a terror suspect; and arrest a suspect without warrants and detain him for up to 90 days before trail who has committed or is likely to commit a scheduled offence.

A person arrested or detained under this ordinance whose identity is unascertainable will be considered as an enemy alien and presumed to have joined waging war or insurrection against Pakistan. The government may keep a person in preventive detention for up to 90 days if on valid grounds he is believed acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, security, defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, or external affairs of Pakistan, or public order or maintenance of supplies and services.

The suspects to be tried under PPO would be investigated by a Joint Investigation Team comprising employees of the police, armed forces/civil armed forces. The report of the investigations would be an admissible evidence before the Special Court. The special courts would be set up in consultation with concerned Chief Justice of the concerned High Court.

The Chief Justice of the concerned province will also appoint judges of these court from among sitting and former sessions judges or the advocates with 10 years standing in the High Court. In consultation with CJ, the government may appoint magistrate of the first class or any other officer of not less than BPS-18 as Special Judicial Magistrate. A person convicted of a scheduled offence may be confined at any place in Pakistan.

The prosecution of the cases will be carried through an independent institution. Appropriate measures will be adopted to provide security to the prosecution witnesses, investigating officers, prosecutors, special judicial magistrates and judges of the special courts and for this purpose the government would be authorized to establish security prison with special court anywhere in the country.

An accused facing the charge of a scheduled offence would have the onus to prove that he is not engaged in waging war or insurrection against Pakistan. An appeal against the final judgment of a special court shall lie to the Supreme Court within 15 days of the pronouncement of the judgment.

The scheduled offences are: any act to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct. Crimes against ethnic, religious and political groups or minorities – including offences based on discrimination, hatred, creed and race. Use of arson, fire-bombs, suicide bombs, biological weapons, chemical weapons, nuclear arms, plastic explosives and other materials capable of exploding or creating bombs employed to kill persons or destroy property.

Use of arson and bombs on public places, government premises, sites of worship, historical places, business concerns, or other places, and risking or causing death to any person therein. Killing, kidnapping, extortion, assault or attack on the parliamentarians, member of judiciary, executive, media, employees of armed forces and law enforcement agencies; officials, official guests, tourists, foreign visitors, or internationally protected persons etc. social or welfare workers, including health personnel, aid workers, and volunteers.

Destruction of or attack on communication and interaction lines, devices, grids, stations, or systems etc; on energy facilities including dams, power generating and distributing systems including stations, lines and poles; on aircraft and airports, attack on flight crew or endangering human life by means of weapons on aircraft; attacks on gas or oil pipelines and liquid or natural gas facilities and other means of their transport including tankers; national defence materials, premises, utilities, and installations including check posts, prisons and other fixtures. Crimes against computers including cyber crimes, internet offenses and other offences related to information technology etc. wrecking, disrupting or attacking mass transport systems. Abetment would also form part of the scheduled offence.