KARACHI - In an effort to put a control on crime and terrorism through conviction, the Sindh Assembly on Wednesday passed “Sindh Witness Protection Bill 2013” into law unanimously. aiming to give protection to witnesses to enable them to give evidence in criminal proceedings.

With the passage of the law, Sindh became the first province in the country having a witness protection programme, under which witnesses are allowed to conceal his/her identity by wearing mask, changing voice and appearance during trial or examination of criminal proceedings in court of law.

Law and Parliamentary Minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro urged the chair to allow him to take up bill “The Sindh Witness Protection Bill, 2013” which was already introduced in the last session of the House.

Law Minister while speaking on general principles of the bill said the new law aimed at providing protection to the witnesses to enable them to give evidence in criminal proceedings in heinous crimes of treason, sedition, murder, rape, public violence, robbery, perjury, indecent on assault on a child under the age of 16 years involving the infliction of grievous bodily harm, drugs and any other offence relating to exchange of control, corruption, extortion, fraud, forgery or uttering theft and other crimes.

Citing the example of the killings of police officers and other witnesses in major cases, the law minister said it had been witnessed that witnesses in important cases had been killed before appearing to record their statement in the court of law. They do not come forward in major cases against accused persons in fear of harm to them or their family members.

Mandhro said law of witness protection programme had been formulated after research, consultation with legal experts, civil society and other police officers to enable the conviction of criminals involved in the crimes.

He said the new law will help maintain the law and order in the city where targeted operation had been launched against the criminals and terrorism.

He unveiled that Sindh has become the first province having witness protection law as National Assembly as well other three provincial governments also approached him to share the draft of this law as they also wanted to adopt this new law. 

Senior Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said the essence of the bill was to give protection to the witnesses in major cases to control the crime.

Lawmakers of MQM, PTI, PML-F and PML-N while applauding the Sindh government over tabling of a law of witness protection programme, have strongly recommended its implementation with letter and spirit.

MQM’s parliamentary leader Sardar Ahmed, Dr Sagheer Ahmed, Khalid Ahmed, Aamir Moin Pirzada supported the bill and suggested the government to prevent misuse of new law against political opponents and political workers in future.

They asked the government to strengthen the evidence mechanism with latest forensic facilities for conviction of the criminals in heinous crimes. 

Hafeezuddin of PTI praised the government on bringing this law, which was the need of the hour. Nusrat Sehar Abbasi of PML-F said criminals in major murder cases as well gang-rape cases get freed due to lack of witnesses during the court proceedings while the witnesses in many cases were killed. Haji Shafi Jamote of PML-N had also supported and congratulated the government for bringing a significant legislation.

During the clause by clause consideration, the House adopted three amendments tabled by Khalid Ahmed of MQM, through which the protection and facilities mentioned in the law will also be provided to the family members of the witness if he or she demanded.

Later, the bill was passed into law unanimously.

It may be noted that under the witness protection law, the Sindh government will have to establish a Board to be known as the Witness Protection Advisory Board consisting of Secretaries Home Department, Law, Finance, Advocate General Sindh, IG police, IG Jails, Sindh Prosecutor General and representatives of provincial commission of human rights and AIG CID police.

A unit with the name of Witnesses Protection Unit would be established in the Home Department while the government will post a Chief Witness Protection Officer in the department.

The government has to allow the witness for video conferencing in order to secure the protected person.

The new law suggests measures to protect the witness including relocating the witness, providing accommodation for the witness, providing reasonable financial assistance to the witness whenever practicable for obtaining means of livelihood, as well as providing compensation to the legal heirs if protected person was killed due to his/her participation in the programme and making special arrangements for the security of the witness for reasonable period of time.

Later, after adopting six resolutions, the Chair adjourned the proceedings of the House to meet again on Thursday (today).