Opposition formulates plan to block PPO in Senate

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ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties finalised on Friday their plan to block the Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO) in the Senate which would take up the controversial law during its session commencing on Monday, sources said. In a worrying development for the ruling party, not only the four main opposition parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) – will try to block the legislation in the upper house but will be supported by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) which has so far been with the PML-N.

Leaders of the opposition parties in Senate contacted each other on Friday to chalk out a line of action to block the proposed law, the sources said.

MQM leader Babar Khan Ghauri played a key role in this regard as he contacted on phone opposition leaders like Aitzaz Ahsan of the PPP, Haji Adeel of the ANP and Kamil Agha of the PML-Q.

Mr Ghauri termed the proposed law “dictatorial, inhuman, bloody, evil and merciless” and said his party would oppose it at every forum.

The leaders of the PPP, PML-Q and ANP supported his stance and pledged that they would never allow its passage in the upper house.

A senior PPP leader, Senator Farhatullah Khan Babar, said: “First of all we will try to stop the introduction of the PPO in the house, when the minister concerned will seek permission for tabling it.”

If the ruling party manages to present the bill, the opposition would oppose it and propose that it be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice for necessary amendments, he said.

Senators from the opposition parties and the JUI-F would meet in the parliament house on Monday just before the commencement of the session to give final touches to their plan, the PPP leader said.

“The PPO is not meant to protect the country from militants. Rather, it gives licence to security agencies to continue kidnapping people and to dump dead bodies across the country,” Senator Babar remarked.

“It is a device aimed at removing the inconvenience felt by law enforcers at being questioned by courts or parliament in cases of enforced disappearances…. (The proposed law) will be opposed strongly in the Senate.”

He characterised the PPO as a “declaration of war against” Pakistan’s international obligations under the UN conventions ratified by the country, like the Convention against Torture and the Convention for the Protection of Civil and Political Rights.

“It is a recipe for making matters worse in Balochistan, Karachi and elsewhere where the trigger-happy law-enforcers have already created havoc,” said the PPP Senator.

The PPO empowers security agencies to arrest anybody on the basis of ‘credible information’ regarding involvement in anti-state activities, terrorism and treason. However, ‘credible information’ has not been defined in the ordinance.

The PPO allows appeal before the Supreme Court within 15 days. But some analysts are of the view that the appeal time should be stretched to 40 days and there should be provision to file appeals in lower courts and high courts because a majority of appellants cannot bear the cost of pursuing cases in the apex court.

The PML-N government introduced the legislation in a bid to curb violence gripping the country since 2007. The country also faces insurgency in Balochistan and rising sectarian violence.