Army (Amendment) Act, 2023, five years jail for discloses sensitive information The bill, titled “Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2023” Senate passed with majority vote


Senate of Pakistan passed Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2023 with majority vote

Bill proposes up to five years in jail for anyone who discloses sensitive information pertaining to security of country or the Pakistan Army

ISLAMABAD ( Web News )

The Senate of Pakistan on Thursday passed a bill to amend the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 which proposes up to five years in jail for anyone who discloses sensitive information pertaining to the security of the country or the Pakistan Army. The bill was passed with majority vote.

The bill, titled “Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2023”, was moved by Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

The bill proposes adding Section 26-A (unauthorised disclosure) to the act, under which “anyone who discloses or causes to be disclosed any information, acquired in official capacity, which is or may be prejudicial to the security and interest of Pakistan or the armed forces of Pakistan, shall be […] punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years”.

However, if someone does so “after seeking prior approval from the chief of army staff (COAS), or any officer duly empowered by him, in the manner prescribed” then it shall not be deemed as an “unauthorised disclosure”.

It also states that such a case will be dealt with according to Section 59 (civil offences) of the Army Act read with the Official Secrets Act 1923.

The bill also proposes introducing Section 26-B, which forbids any person subject to the Army Act from engaging in any kind of political activity for two years from the date of their “retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service”.

It further says that those who have “remained posted, employed, seconded, tasked or otherwise attached on sensitive duties”, forbidding them from taking part in “political activity of any kind, during a period of five years from the date of his retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service”.

It states that anyone who violates the aforementioned conditions, upon their conviction by the court constituted under the Army Act, will be punished with “rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years”.

The bill also proposes introducing Sections 55-A (conflict of interest), 55-B (electronic crimes) and 55-C (defamation).

Section 55-A forbids any persons subject to the Army Act in the past five years from “directly or indirectly enter[ing] into employment, consultation or other engagement with an entity having conflict of interest” with the activities of the Pakistan Army or its affiliates.

However, the law does not apply to those who seek prior approval from the COAS for the above. A person guilty of the said offence can be imprisoned for up to “two years with fine not exceeding Rs500,000 or with both”, the bill states.

Section 55-B states that any person who commits an offence under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016 “with the malafide intention to undermine, ridicule, or scandalize the armed forces of Pakistan,” shall be punished in the manner prescribed in the PECA law.

Section 55-C stated that a person subject to the Army Act, who “ridicules, scandalises, brings into hatred or otherwise attempts to lower the armed forces of Pakistan or any part thereof in the estimation of others shall […] be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years or fine or with both.”

The bill also proposes introducing of Section 176-AA (power to issue instructions) which states that the COAS may “from time to time, make and issue instructions for carrying into effect the provisions of this Act and the rules and regulations made thereunder, provided that all such instructions already made and issued shall always be deemed to have been validly made and issued under this act”.

A clause introduced to Section 176-C proposes that the COAS “may delegate any of his powers and functions conferred by, or delegated under this act, to any officer or authority subordinate to him”.

Meanwhile, the addition of Section 176-E (overriding effect) proposes that the laws under the act “shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other law, rules or regulations for the time being in force”, adding that any such inconsistent law shall, “to the extent of any inconsistency, cease to have effect”.

After the bill was tabled in the Senate, Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan said that lawmakers had received the copy of the legislation today. “Such legislation should not be enacted in haste and in a haphazard manner,” he said. Asserting his patriotism and admiration for the Pakistan Army, he said that the Senate would pass the bill with consensus after a discussion but the “procedure of the House should not be violated”.

He demanded that the Senate Chairman should send the bill proposed by Khawaja Asif to the committee concerned. At this, Senate Chairman Mir Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani put the motion up for vote after which it was rejected.

In addition to the bill to amend the Army Act, two other bills for amending the Cantonment Act, 1924 and the Defence Housing Authority Islamabad Act, 2013 were also passed by the Senate.

During the session, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani 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, Mian Raza 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.

Meanwhile during the session, the senators from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf 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 their leader Imran Khan in a speech against Maryam Nawaz Sharif– 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 Senator 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.

Meanwhile Minister for Power Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan says the government is taking substantial steps to provide electricity to the people of Gwadar.

Responding in Question Hour at the Senate on Thursday, he said the government is also striving to resolve issues of distribution and line losses.

The Minister said strict legal and disciplinary actions have been taken against the officials involved in electricity theft.

He said new Sub Divisional Officers have been hired by the companies which will enable the DISCOS to work smoothly.

Engineer Khurram Dastgir said WAPDA was restructured in 1991-92. He said restructuring of WAPDA has increased the efficiency of work.

He stressed on the need to bring more reforms in the energy sector in order to make it more efficient.

Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar says all minorities in Pakistan enjoy their fundamental rights under the constitution.

He was responding to a Calling Attention Notice in the Senate today regarding the directions issued by Higher Education Commission advising all Higher Education Institutions to distance themselves from celebrating activities like Hindu festival Holi.

The Minister said all citizens are equal, respectable and proud Pakistanis. He expressed his commitment to convey the matter to the Prime Minister and take strict action against the responsible persons.

Responding to another Calling Attention Notice about release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, Azam Nazeer Tarar said every citizen has a right to be dealt with according to law.

He said the government has supported Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan and Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui during their meetings with Dr. Afia Siddiqui.

Meanwhile the House also passed “The Board of Investment (Amendment) Bill 2023”. The bill was moved by Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar.

Taking the floor, the Minister said under this amendment, a Council will be formed with Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and four Federal Ministers will be the members of the Council.

Azam Nazeer Tarar said this Council will supervise the efforts to enhance foreign investment in the country. The House will now meet again on Sunday at 12:00 PM.