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Monday May 20, 2024

How May 9 attacks attract Army Act, Official Secrets Act

Sources say military authorities do not need permission from govt to try those who have committed offences under these two acts

By Ansar Abbasi
May 23, 2023
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party activists and supporters of former Pakistan´s Prime Minister Imran hit a police water cannon vehicle during a protest against the arrest of their leader in Lahore on May 9, 2023. Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was arrested on May 9, police said, during a court appearance for one of the dozens of cases pending since he was booted from office last year.—AFP
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party activists and supporters of former Pakistan´s Prime Minister Imran hit a police water cannon vehicle during a protest against the arrest of their leader in Lahore on May 9, 2023. Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was arrested on May 9, police said, during a court appearance for one of the dozens of cases pending since he was booted from office last year.—AFP 

ISLAMABAD: Attack on military installations, buildings etc., even by civilians, is an offence under the Pakistan Army Act of 1952, which interestingly also covers offences including entering into prohibited places under the Official Secrets Act 1923.

Government sources said that for the same reason, the military courts will try the planners, instigators and attackers of defence installations, buildings, monuments etc on May 9 under Army Act 1952 and Official Secrets Act 1923.

These sources said that the military authorities do not even need permission or approval from the federal government to try those who have committed offences under these two acts. The existing military courts under Army Act are part of the country’s judicial system and many civilian accused have been tried under the same act, claim these sources. It is said that Section 2(d) of the Pakistan Army Act 1952 covers the application of this law on those who are not part of the defence forces. The said section is quite detailed and shows that persons, who are not otherwise subject to this act, shall be subject to this act if they are accused of having committed, in relation to any work of defence, arsenal, naval, military or air force establishment or station, ship or aircraft or otherwise in relation to the naval, military or air force affairs of Pakistan, an offence under the Official Secrets Act, 1923. The Act also covers the act of attacking military installations. The Army Act, as mentioned in the above para, also covers those who commit an offence under the Official Secrets Act.

Reading of the Official Secrets Act 1923, which envisages different types of offences, shows that the act will come into action if any person for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state approaches, inspects, passes over or is in the vicinity of, or enters any prohibited place. Such an offender can be sentenced to imprisonment for a term which may extend to 14 years.

The special corps commanders’ conference, which met last week and was presided over by Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir at GHQ, had decided that those involved in attacks on military installations, personnel and equipment during violence on May 9, would be tried under relevant laws of Pakistan Army including Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act. The announcement to try planners, instigators, abettors and attackers of military installations, buildings, etc on May 9 under the Army Act and Official Secrets Act generated debate in the media and political circles over the validity of such a decision. Some people argue that it would be a violation of the Constitution, others mix up the Army Act with certain legislations done in the past for military courts.