Detention centres to be set up, suspects to be confined for 90 days

February 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Detention centres, initial 90-day preventive confinement, in-camera trial, seizure of property and joint investigation team have been provided for those accused of ‘economic...

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ISLAMABAD: Detention centres, initial 90-day preventive confinement, in-camera trial, seizure of property and joint investigation team (JIT) have been provided for those accused of ‘economic terrorism’ in a new law that has been cleared by a standing committee for approval by the National Assembly.

These extremely stringent measures are included in an amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), which gives powers to the interior and home secretaries and armed forces and civil armed forces to detain a person on this charge. “We will bring amendments in the bill when the National Assembly will take it up. A similar response is natural from the Senate,” parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the National Assembly told The News, and apprehended that the law, if passed by parliament, would be used against political rivals of the government.

The bill was referred to the standing committee for scrutiny when it was introduced by Interior Minister Brig (R) Ijaz Shah on Nov 7, 2019. It went unnoticed, unreported then and even now when it has been passed by the House body.

According to it, ‘economic terrorism’ means the transfer of money or funds from Pakistan to destinations abroad through any informal channel, including Hawala and Hundi, where the total amount transferred by any one agent, through a single or multiple transactions over a period of one month, is equal to or exceeds Rs50 million. ‘Agent’ means a natural or a legal person providing informal money or value transfer services, including Hawala and Hundi.

Section 9A has been inserted in the ATA, which says any person against whom there are reasonable grounds of believing that he is connected with an offence under the ATA may be detained for inquiry for a period not exceeding three months. Such detention may be authorised through a specific or general order passed by the interior secretary or home secretary of the province, or where the provisions of the instant amendment have been invoked, the armed forces or civil armed forces, as the case may be, upon the recommendation of a committee to be notified by the interior secretary.

The bills says the inquiry may be conducted by a police officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police (SP) or through a joint investigation team (JIT) to be notified by the government comprising a police officer not below the rank of SP and officers of other investigation agencies. The police officer or JIT, as the case may be, shall have such powers as given in Section 5 of the Federal Investigation Act (FIA) Act, 1974.

However, where the detention order has been issued by the armed forces or civil armed forces, the inquiry shall be conducted by the JIT comprising members of armed forces or civil armed forces, as the case may be, intelligence agencies and other law enforcement agencies, including a police officer not below the rank of SP.

The detainee shall be produced in camera before the presiding officer of the [antiterrorism] court or in his absence before the district and sessions judge or the magistrate appointed under the Shariah Nizam-e-Adl Regulation, 2009, as the case may be, within 24 hours of his detention and before the presiding officer of the court if and when any extension in the period of detention is requested.

The Shariah Nizam-e-Adl Regulation, 2009, provided for Nifaz-e-Nizam-e-Sharia’h through courts in the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, except the tribal area adjoining Mansehra district and the former [princely] State of Amb.

The bill says the police officer or JIT, as the case may be, conducting inquiry shall have the powers relating to search or arrest of person and seizure of property and other relevant material connected with the commission of any offence and shall have the powers which a police officer has in relation to the investigation of offences under the ATA or Criminal Procedure Code or any other law for the time being in force.

The detainee shall be kept in a detention centre as notified by the government and the presiding officer of the court or the district and sessions judge or the magistrate, as the case may be, shall have the authority to inspect the detention centre to ensure that the custody is in accordance with the law for the time being in force.

The initial three months or future detention will be subject to the provisions of Article 10 of the Constitution. Any detained person shall be provided with such facility of medical checkup as may be prescribed. Where any person is aggrieved by the detention order, he may file a review application in writing before the interior minister in case he is detained by the interior secretary; or before the interior secretary in case he is detained by the order of the home secretary.

The committee to be notified by the interior secretary, which will authorise detention, will include the interior secretary, FIA chief, Member, Customs, and chiefs of Airport Security Force and Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), and representative of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau and financial monitoring unit of the State Bank of Pakistan in case the detention order is made by the interior secretary.

However, if the detention order is made by the home secretary, the committee will include the home secretary concerned, provincial police special branch chief, FIA Zonal Director, collector, customs, preventive head of Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), ISI sector commander, IB joint director and CAF [civil armed forces] representative.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill said that the ATA though comprehensive in its scope lacks the definition of agent and economic terrorism and provision regarding detention of criminals for the purpose of inquiry. The proposed amendment will further enhance the applicability of the ATA in cases of transfer of money or funds through informal channels, including Hawala and Hundi.

In addition, the insertion of new section regarding preventive detention will empower the federal and provincial authorities to detain the persons for inquiry and to review the application of aggrieved persons against the detention orders.



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