Monday, July 7, 2014


Now that the Protection of Pakistan Bill has been passed, a few points need to be considered very seriously. True, the security situation warrants extra ordinary measures, but just what extent should security agencies be allowed to go, and for how long, is important.

First of all, the Bill did not command complete unanimity among political parties. PTI stayed on the sidelines, and the Jamat and JUI-F were against it. MQM, too, agreed, but not without controversy. The chief, it turns out, was not in the loop when the decision was made. And he eventually agreed because the party had taken a position, but only grudgingly.

There is little doubt that the Bill incorporates some truly draconian measures. It is not very often, after all, that grade 15 officers are given the authority to kill. And anybody even vaguely familiar with the way our security agencies are used to operating will realise just what manner of political victimisation can be facilitated when such laws are put in place. Therefore, oversight will be very important, and high offices will need to be held to account in case of excesses.

It is also important to note that while Zarb-e-Azb is central to national survival, and government offices must facilitate the drive against insurgents in whichever way possible – and there will be blowback in cities – this law is not specifically for the operation. It is meant to deal with overall security breakdown which, actually, led to the operation.

Altaf Hussain has asked to law to be scraped immediately after the North Waziristan sweep, even though it is given an official lifeline of two years. Ironically, sections within law enforcement agencies are also skeptical about certain features incorporated in the Bill; they might not be able to walk away scot free from disputed incidents like the old days.

Surely the government would not want to be put in an awkward position because of initiatives meant to restore law and order. Two years might be too long, it should be rolled back sooner.

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