The National Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed the Investigation for Fair Trial Bill, 2012, which provides for the agencies to tap phone calls and monitor emails as part of the collection of evidence through techniques and devices.
It envisaged that electronic material and the data of phone calls could be presented in a court as evidence. The House adopted 30 out of 32 amendments in the bill moved by the PML-N members.
Federal Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Farooq H Naek tabled the bill. In addition to the use of modern technology, the bill will also regulate the powers of the enforcement and intelligence agencies.
After the passage of the bill, all the law enforcement and intelligence agencies will be governed by a uniform legal system for collection of evidence‚ which will be admissible even if collected prior to the registration of an FIR.
This would provide a legal framework to the agencies to lawfully conduct surveillance of an individual who is suspected of being involved in an act of crime or terror. The Fair Trial Bill 2012 provides the law enforcing agencies with access to email, spying and secret phone records of suspects.
Speaking in the National Assembly after the passage of the bill, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf appreciated the House for passing it unanimously. He said the approval of the bill was a message to the terrorists that they would not be tolerated any more.
He assured that the bill would not affect the lives of the general public, as it was parliament’s duty to make necessary amendments in laws. He asked, “Which society allows the disturbing of its anti-polio vaccination drive?”
The prime minister lauded the sacrifices of the security forces in the fight against terrorism and said they always confronted challenges with courage and resilience.
He said that the nation stood behind the security forces in this fight. He said, “It is a common commitment that terrorists will not be allowed to distort the image of Pakistan.”
He said the country was in the grip of terrorism and the bill passed by the House was aimed at defeating them.
He said the passage of the Bill conveyed a message to the international community that Pakistan, by strengthening its security forces, wanted to combat the menace of terrorism.
He said the legislation also gave a clear message to the terrorists that the whole nation was united against them.
Agreeing to the concerns of the opposition leader, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, on the bill‚ he said there was always room for improvement.
Defence Minister Syed Naveed Qamar said this legislation was required to bring to justice the terrorists who often got released due to lack of evidences. He said that an effort has been made to ensure nobody could misuse this law.
Speaking on the occasion, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said, “Keeping in view the current security situation in the country‚ we are supporting the objectives of the bill.”
The opposition leader, however, said the bill was not ideal. “It should have been more transparent,” he said.
The House adopted an amendment of the PML-N deleting the name of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from the list of agencies which would be able to monitor email, SMS, Internet Protocol Detail Record (IDPR), Call Detail Record (CDR) and any other form of computer-based or cell phone-based communication. “The FIA does not enjoy a good reputation and there are many applications against the agency in Karachi,” Anusha Rehman, moving the amendment, said.
The bill on becoming an Act of the Parliament would enable the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and police to use modern techniques to investigate scheduled offences and terrorists.
According to another amendment, an officer of the intelligence or law enforcement agency shall present a report to the Interior Minister for permission to apply to a judge for the issuance of warrant, surveillance or interception of communication of a suspect. Another amendment says any officer misusing the Act would be punishable for three years imprisonment.
The government, however, opposed an amendment stating that the Act should be reviewed by the then government after one year. Soon after the chairperson of the standing committee concerned laid the report of the committee about the bill in the House, the law minister sought a relaxation of rules to move the bill for its passage.
In the meantime, Zahid Hamid, who later moved various amendments on behalf of his party, said the government had bulldozed the bill on the floor of the National Assembly. “We need this bill. It is vital to curb crimes but it should not be passed in this way,” he said.
Chaudhry Nisar questioned what the urgency was in passing such bills in haste. “We have taken an oath to protect rights of the people and want a the transparent bill so that their rights cannot be violated,” he said.
He said that his party had moved 32 amendments in the bill.
This bill will render necessary assistance in the successful prosecution of perpetrators of heinous crimes. After coming into effect, the law will prevent the arbitrary use and abuse of interception powers, particularly by the intelligence agencies, and force them to abide by the law.
It would also encourage all the investigating intelligence agencies to only collect genuine evidence in accordance with the law and curb the temptation of planting false and fabricated evidence against individuals in violation of their human rights and civil liberties.
Any person residing abroad, liable for investigation under the provisions of this Act for a scheduled offence, shall be dealt with according to the provisions of this Act in the same manner as if such an offence had been committed within Pakistan.
Earlier, during the question hour, the PML-N, MQM and ANP MNAs staged a token walkout of the House against the absence of minister concerned as their questions were not being responded to. The chair referred the matter to the Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges.
The House also adopted an amendment moved by Abdul Rashid Godail of the MQM according to which the committee to monitor and review the implementation of the Act would comprise federal ministers for interior, defence and law.