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January 8, 2015
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‘State exonerating its responsibility to provide security to citizens’

National

January 8, 2015

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PESHAWAR: The state is exonerating its responsibility of providing security to its citizens, at least in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Under the Constitution, the government shall provide security to its people. But, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, security is people’s responsibility, says a new law. Under this law, to be signed by the governor, citizens can be punished up to one year imprisonment, or fined up to Rs40,000, if they fail to take security measures.
The security measures include mandatory installation of close circuit television (CCTV) cameras, walk-through gates, security alarms, hiring of security guards and other steps. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sensitive and Vulnerable Establishments and Places (Security) Bill requires educational institutions, private clinics, public parks, wedding halls, hospitals, banks, financial institutions, NGOs, foreign projects, religious places, companies, firms, petrol & CNG pumps, jewellery shops, amusement or entertainment centres, public transport terminals and businesses to make security arrangements.
Lawmakers and legal experts say the law is in violation the Constitution. “This law is in conflict with the fundamental rights of the Constitution of Pakistan. It violates article 9,” said Sikandar Sherpao, Qaumi Watan Party’s provincial chairman who is also member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. “You cannot ask a businessman that he cannot run a business until he takes measures for his security. This is inconsistent with the Constitution,” he argued.
Article 9 guarantees right to life and article 18 of the Constitution asserts citizens’ right to freedom of trade, business or profession. The law will be challenged in the high court, announced Sikandar Sherpao and President of the High Court Bar Association Muhammad Essa Khan on Wednesday. They expressed the intention in separate interviews with The News.
“If businesses are forced to ensure their protection, what is the government for?” Essa Khan

wondered. “The government is escaping from its constitutional duty,” he said. The leading lawyer asked from where the businessmen would bring finances to buy the equipment and gadgets. Not every businessman, he added, would be able to afford the expenses for security arrangements listed in the law.
The bill tabled in March 2014 had lacked consensus in the House. It was sent to the assembly’s select committee where the government prevailed over the members of the opposition. The only opposition was offered by Mufti Fazal Ghafoor, who said mosques should be excluded from the list of vulnerable establishments and places. The amendment was accepted by the government but madrassas would still have to make their own security arrangements.
“They were in majority and were hell-bent on passing this bill,” recalled Sikandar Sherpao, who from the beginning confronted the government over this piece of legislation. “The government and its police want to shift responsibility of securing citizens to the people. Police will also use this law as a tool for persecution of citizens,” he worried.
Awami National Party’s Jafar Shah, a lawmaker from Swat, said the government was actually encouraging every individual to raise own lashkar. He said protecting citizens was the responsibility of the government and could not be shifted to the people. “This was our stance on the bill before and this remains our stand today,” he said. “But what can we do after it was approved by the select committee and passed by the assembly?” he asked.
The shifting of security responsibility to the people will undermine the state’s authority to collect taxes from the citizens. “We are already paying for our security,” Essa Khan said. “Who pays for the police force’s salaries and other privileges? Don’t we? If I pay you tax, you are bound to ensure my security” he argued. The PHC Bar Association president said the law could not be imposed being in conflict with the Constitution. “We will be the first to challenge it,” he declared.

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