LAHORE: Punjab apex committee yesterday met Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and recommended a set of changes in the federal laws for speedy trial and execution of terrorists. Vowing to eliminate banned religious outfits, the meeting also decided to expand the scope of operation against the facilitators of terrorists on the basis of intelligence.

The decision comes after a government investigation found that students and teachers from 54 seminaries, of the total 13,782 religious seminaries in the province, were actively involved in terrorism and sectarian activities while people at 244 Madrassas were identified as terrorists’ facilitators. The chief minister observed in the meeting that terrorists and their facilitators would be made an example and those destroying peace in the country would be brought to their logical end.

Lahore Corps Commander Lt-Gen Sadiq Ali, MPA Jehangir Khanzada - who is a son of former Home Minister Col (r) Shuja Khanzada-, Chief Secretary Khizar Hayat Gondal, Punjab Rangers DG Maj-Gen Umar Farooq Burki, General Officer Commanding 10th Division Maj-Gen Tariq Aman, inspector general of police, home secretary and senior civil and military officers attended the meeting. The committee recommended seven amendments in different sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), CrPC and ATA, 1997 Fair Trial Act, 2013 and Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014 as proposed by the Punjab government.

The proposed changes are aimed at tightening noose around the terrorists. The Punjab government has already sent its recommendations to the federal government in this regard. Through a new insertion (Section 297-A) in the PPC, the offence of misuse of loudspeakers to outrage religious, ethnic or sectarian feelings may be made punishable with imprisonment ranging from 3 to 7 years with fine. And if the misuse of loudspeaker triggers violence; then besides application of other relevant provisions of laws, the offence may be punished with imprisonment from 5 to 10 years and fine up to Rs10 million.

A proposed amendment in Article 164 of Qanoon-e-Shahadat 1984 would make conviction on sole basis of modern devices or techniques lawful, thereby leaving no room for terrorists to get scot free mainly due to lack of credible evidence. Through amendment in section 182 of PPC, the offence of fake registration of FIR (false information) would be made a cognisable offence with same quantum of punishment as is for the offence in which false information is given. An amendment in section 511 of CrPC, offences under Arms Act, may be made non-bailable.

A new section - 11 WW of ATA, 1997 - has been proposed to be inserted in the Anti-Terrorism Act by which lynching by a mob would be made punishable with imprisonment up to 3 years and with fine up to Rs100,000 (in case of hurt); life imprisonment and fine up to Rs500,000 (in case of grievous hurt); death penalty and fine up to Rs1,000,000 (in case of death). Proposed amendments in Fair Trial Act, 2013 and Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014 will give concurrent powers to the provincial government for detention and issuance of warrants of suspected persons. Through an amendment in section 143 of PPC, the punishment for unlawful assembly will be enhanced from existing six months imprisonment to one year and fine up to Rs100,000 but not less than Rs50,000.

Proposed amendments in Pemra (Amendments) Act, 2015, will bar the media organisations from broadcasting of any material, including statements by proscribed organisations or militants, which amounts to projection or glorification or abetment of terrorists. Moreover, broadcasting of any program involving violence or hatred, live actions, operations or tactical moves of LEAs, scenes with violence including close up shots of persons killed or tortured will not be allowed. Such offences will be cognisable on a written complaint from an authorised officer.

The committee also approved reforms in police and other law enforcement agencies to cope with the challenge of terrorism. According to an official handout, the meeting reviewed in detail the measures taken in the province under National Action Plan and expressed its satisfaction over the steps taken for curbing terrorism in Punjab. Timely measures taken by the Punjab government in this regard were also appreciated. Addressing the meeting, Shahbaz Sharif said that officers and Jawans of Pak Army, police as well as all segments of society have rendered supreme sacrifices in the war against terrorism. He said that military and political leadership of Pakistan is moving forward against terrorism with complete unity.