LAHORE- The Punjab Assembly has legislated into law nine bills including Witness Protection Bill 2018 here Wednesday.

All the bills were carried in the absence of the opposition which then had walked out of the session in protest against the statement of former PM Nawaz Sharif.

The session started three hours beyond the fixed time with speaker Rana Iqbal in the chair. The house took up questions on agriculture, home and environmental protection departments. At the outset of the session, leader of opposition Mian Mehmoodur Rashid, speaking on a point of order, invited attention of the controversial statement of Mian Nawaz Sharif and wanted that the motion moved by the opposition may be taken out of turn. The chair however not allowed the motion.

The bills which have been legislated into the law included Witness Protection Bill 2018, the government servant housing foundation Punjab bill, university of technology Rasool Punjab bill, bonded labour system Punjab Bill, explosive material bill, land revenue bill and agri marketing regulatory authority etc.

The Witness Protection Bill 2018, aimed at protecting witnesses in criminal proceedings, beside ensuring effective and speedy disposal of trials.

Witnesses are considered important for convictions in criminal and terrorism cases in the country but they are often killed partly due to lack of protection from the state.

The Witness Protection Bill says that the examination of witnesses would now become possible via video link while their anonymity would also be maintained as per requirement.

It also stipulates rules for reporting of sexual offences and terrorism-related offences, and says that the identity of a "person connected with an offence of terrorism or a sexual offence" or their family members would not be reported in print, electronic or any other media if they are minors or if the court feels that it would affect the quality or voluntariness of evidence in the case.

According to the bill, the government would create a Witness Protection Board — to formulate policy and supervise its implementation — and two witness protection units relating to offences of terrorism and other serious offences, respectively.

The units would assess whether a victim, witness or any other person related to the case requires protection and would be able to ensure their lodging at a safe house, temporary or permanent relocation, change of identity, concealment of identity for criminal proceedings as well as provision of financial assistance if they are "unable to undertake regular employment or when his freedom of movement is severely curtailed".