Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Criminology

Testing the Vires of Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA), 2014 on the Touchstone of Constitution

Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Criminology

Testing the Vires of Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA), 2014 on the Touchstone of Constitution

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Protection of Pakistan Act 2014 has been the subject of intense debate/criticism, often referred to as black law/draconian measure, which impinges the individual's most cherished fundamental rights/freedoms. Having said so, however, there are others who defend it on the plea that it addresses a critical situation, with terrorists/militants having launched insurgency/belligerency, and the country confronted with an existential threat. They argue that extraordinary situation warrant extraordinary measures to control the menace and restore normalcy. Notwithstanding the need/urgency of the law, in a democratic dispensation, with Constitution being the supreme law, the legal/constitutional safeguards for rights/liberties of citizens must be observed.

This is clearly established by successive judgments of the superior courts in Pakistan. In the words of Lord Aitkin, "amidst the clash of arms, the laws are not silent... they speak the same language in war as in peace". The law vests excessive/unbridled powers of arrest, detention and use of force, including order to shoot, in the law enforcement agencies. Certain provisions of the law far exceed the limits set by law/Constitution e.g. characterizing a citizen as an enemy alien, and depriving him of the right to presumption of innocence, exclusion of public from trial, keeping accused incommunicado in internment centers, and denial of legal safeguards like preventing courts from issuing habeas corpus writs, releasing accused on bail and exercising inherent powers to prevent the miscarriage of justice, e t c. Q u i t e o b v io u s l y, s u c h p r o v i s i o n s m i l i t a t e a g ai n s t e st a b l is h e d legal/Constitutional norms and are violative of fundamental rights/freedoms. The law, therefore, needs to be reviewed to bring it in harmony with legal norms of civilized system of governance. The Government also needs to take administrative measures to ensure the security of judges, prosecutors and witnesses to secure convictions and for capacity building of the justice sector professionals through training.

Criticism

The Protection of Pakistan Act 2014 (PPA), has come into force. Earlier, the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance 2013, as amended by the Ordinance 1 of 2014, remained in operation for 8 months and subjected to intense debate/criticism by various segments of society e.g. parliamentarians, legal community, media and human rights activists. The Ordinance was referred to as "black law" and "draconian measure", impinging on individual's most cherished legal/fundamental rights. The PPA is not much different, it is merely a rehash of the old law i.e. Ordinance, softening few harsh provisions thereof but still retaining some extremely controversial clauses. No wonder then, the criticism persists!

Having said so, however, there are others who defend the law on the plea that it addresses a critical situation prevailing in the country. There is a raging insurgency in parts of the country, with belligerents taken up arms against the State and fighting the armed forces. Local and foreign militants have successfully executed attacks on government institutions/military installations and are threatening to destabilise the State and dismantle the Government. Besides, there is a rising trend of religious/sectarian violence, incidents of damage to or destruction of vital insta llat io n s like electric/gas supply line s and disr u pt ion o f means of communication/transportation. There operate organized criminal gangs, who indulge in commission of heinous offences like armed robberies, bank heists, kidnapping for ransom, money grabbing (Bhatha collection), etc. In short, the country is confronted with multiple challenges, indeed, facing an existential threat. This state of affairs warrant more stringent measures to quell the insurgency, control the law and order situation, protect life/property and restore normalcy.

The PPA was approved following a compromise between the Government and opposition parties. …

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