Senate passes amendment bill to widen scope of Army Act

Senate passes amendment bill to widen scope of Army Act


Proposed legislation gets majority support barring exceptions

ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – The Senate on Thursday passed the Army Act Amendment Bill, which allowed sentencing a person for revealing any information related to national security and interest for unauthorised use, which he or she had gathered in an official capacity. 

Prescribing a five-year jail term for the crime, the bill says the person revealing any information damaging to Pakistan or the military would be dealt under the Army Act. However, it won’t be a crime if the act is committed with the permission of the chief of army staff or an authorised officer/official. 

The draft legislation tabled by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif with Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani in the chair also says that any state employee [public servant] won’t be able to take part in political activities for two years after his or her retirement, resignation or dismissal.

However, this period is extended to five years in case of serving on a sensitive position. In case of any violation in both cases, the person would face a two-year sentence.

At the same time, the Army Act Amendment Bill also covers the subject of defaming the military through the use of electronic media [social media]. Hence, the accused involved in slandering and spreading hate against the military would face trial [under the existing regulations of The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act] with a maximum punishment of two-year term and fine.

Meanwhile, the Senate also passed two other draft legislations too – the Cantonments Act Amendment Bill and the Board of Investment Act Amendment Bill.

It’s wasn’t totally smooth

During the session, Sen Raza Rabbani and Sen Mushtaq Ahmed of JI objected to the process employed to get the bill approved, as the PPP leader requested the chair to send the proposed legislation to the committee concerned for detailed deliberations, but to no avail.

He said the members had received some bills in the morning – meaning they didn’t have time to study the same properly as the Army Act Amendment Bill wasn’t the only bill tabled before and approved by the House.

As he failed to convince the chairman, Rabbani, after the amendment bill was approved, described the event as a dark day in parliament’s history and added that the amendments presented by him and National Party’s Tahir Bizenjo were not considered. Later, he walked out of the House in protest.

Similarly, the JI leader said the bill should have been sent to the relevant committee and added his voice against bulldozing legislations through the Senate.

Khawaja Asif Won’t Apologise

During the session, the senators from the PTI again raised the issue of remarks passed by the defence minister who, despite the protest, said that he won’t accept selective application of principles. He added that he would readily apologise if the opposing side tender an apology for words used by them against Maryam Nawaz – his party leader.

He said his remarks were not gender-specific and anyone wanting to twist the matter in his or her favour was free to do so. Comments were passed against men too; why no apology in that case as they had been talking about gender equality, Khawaja Asif questioned.

However, the PTI members, including Sen Humayun Mohmand, who had said that the defence minister couldn’t table the bill without offering an apology, staged a walkout to register their protest as they were not satisfied with Asif’s argument.

Earlier on Tuesday, Khawaja Asif had triggered the controversy during the joint sitting of parliament by describing the PTI women lawmakers as garbage.