April 26th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar has said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz coalition government will bring in amendments to laws relating to cybercrime, accountability and the Pakistan penal code as part of its drive for people-friendly legislation.
The minister hinted at also doing away with a colonial-era law on sedition often misused to put opposition leaders and journalists behind bars on trumped-up charges.
Speaking in the Spotlight show with Munizae Jahangir on April 25, Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar clarified that his government had no intention of repealing any good legislation undertaken by the previous Pakistan Tehrik Insaf government, referring to legislation on rape investigation and property rights for women.
The government’s intention was to give the country good legislation in its short span, Tarar said. “Our coalition allies will cooperate with the government as they have given us the mandate to bring about needed law reforms,” the PML-N senator said.
Govt to push bill on enforced disappearance in Senate
Asked whether his government would push pending legislation over enforced disappearance initiated by the previous government, Tarar said he believed the phenomenon of missing persons was a long-standing issue. “Besides, there are court directions to expedite legislation on enforced disappearance in the country,” the law minister pointed out. “The only forum for a solution to the issue (of enforced disappearance) is the floor of the Parliament,” he said, adding that his government would push through the legislation there.
“Our government would continue with positive legislation of the previous government relating to anti-rape laws, domestic violence, inspection laws in capital territory, and property rights for women,” the federal law minister said, adding that these laws have to be made effective through their implementation.
Regarding amendments to the controversial accountability laws, Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar clarified that the government would not scrap the existing National Accountability Bureau. “In my opinion, the existing accountability laws have enough space for amendments,” he said. “There were amendments made to NAB laws by the previous government and there were some amendments that they did not deliberately undertake to pressurise their opponents,” he said.
Minister suggests review committee on colonial-era laws
The law minister said the government was bringing a package of amendments to the accountability laws. “The NAB reforms package would be brought by consensus of parties present in the Parliament,” Tarar said, disclosing that almost 80 percent of the work in this regard had been completed. “The reforms package would be put before the coalition allies after Eidul Fitr,” the minister revealed.
Referring to the arrest of Ali Wazir, a member of the National Assembly, in sedition cases, Tarar said he believed that Section 124A relating to sedition in Pakistan Penal Code was a continuation of colonial times.
The federal law minister disclosed that he had suggested the formation of a review committee to vet certain sections in the criminal procedure code inserted in colonial times to suppress civil liberties. Similarly, he said the modern colonial mindset of the previous government had misused the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act to suppress and browbeat critics. “The government has started work review all such laws that impact or infringe on fundamental rights of citizens,” he said.
After consultation with relevant stakeholders, the proposed reforms would at least effectively limit the misuse of cybercrime and other laws, the law minister said.
Referring to sections of PECA misused to file cases against journalists, Tarar said he had a thorough discussion with Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb over the controversial cybercrime law and the matter was being taken up with the cabinet. “The government would take effective measures to repeal sections of the PECA that override fundamental rights of individuals,” he added.
No word on reforms of election laws
However, the federal law minister did not elaborate on any reforms relating to election laws. The PTI government had given voting rights to overseas Pakistanis and authorized the Election Commission of Pakistan to use electronic voting machines for the general elections.
Upon assuming the government, the coalition parties had announced that they would undertake reforms in the election laws to ensure that upcoming general elections were held in a fair and transparent manner.
Domestic violence and anti-torture bills in limbo
Tarar also did not speak on two important pending bills relating to human rights in Parliament. The Senate had passed the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill in July last year but it was pending before the National Assembly.
The National Assembly has not also passed Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) bill after the Senate passed it with amendments in June 2021. The PTI government referred the bill to the Council of Islamic Ideology which has expressed reservations over the bill.
Several govt bills pending in Senate
According to the Senate website, the upper house is yet to pass 13 government bills transmitted by the National Assembly in January. These include the National Metrology Institute of Pakistan Bill, 2022, The Islamabad Healthcare Facilities Management Authority Bill, 2022, the Pakistan Nursing Council (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Allied Health Professionals Council Bill, 2022, the Pak University of Engineering and Emerging Technology University bill, 2022, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Post Office National Savings Certificates (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2022 January 13, 2022, the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Government Savings Bank (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Protection of Parents Bill, 2022, the National Information Technology Board Bill, 2022, and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2022.