ISLAMABAD: The federal government decides to make necessary amendments to certain laws to keep members of proscribed organisations away from contesting elections, a first apparent sign of state acting decisively to bar extremists from electoral politics.
Key decision came weeks after a legislator from Jhang made his way to the provincial assembly despite the fact that his name was in the fourth schedule of ‘The Anti Terrorism Act, 1997’ — a legal tool that allows the government to catalogue all those suspected in terror activities.
“We have proposed amendments to two acts — [‘The ATA, 1997’ & ‘The People Representations Act, 1976’] — to bar 4th schedulers from contesting elections,” revealed a senior official of Ministry of Interior who’s coordinating with the National Counterterrorism Terrorism Authority (NACTA) on this important issue.
The proposed amendments came from the country’s top counterterrorism body —Nacta — which expressed deep concerns over the active role of proscribed organisations in electoral politics in certain parts of the country, officials said.
If the government successfully gets these earlier mentioned laws amended then around 8,400 members of proscribed organisations whose names are listed to the fourth schedule under ‘The ATA, 1997’ would not able to contest any kind of polls, they said on Sunday.
Before taking this decision, the federal government initiated a widespread monetary crackdown on the fourth schedulers allegedly involved in terror financing as part of implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism and extremism.
Under the laws it’s mandatory for the Nacta to propose the necessary legislation to fight extremists and terrorism in the country, Interior Ministry officials told Geo News/The News on Sunday.
At present, there is no bar on the 4th schedulers to contest polls and even names of some legislators in previous Parliament were listed to schedule IV, they explained. “We’ve proposed amendments to various sections of ‘The ATA, 1997’ and ‘The People Representation Act, 1976’,” a senior official said.
Seeking anonymity, he further revealed that Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali would give final approval for these amendments before we can send the proposed drafts to the Ministry of Law and Justice for the final touch.
Nacta officials also told Geo TV that they started working on amendments after receiving serious reaction from certain quarters on by-elections held in PP-78 Jhang, where the Election Commission of Pakistan and a superior court allowed Masroor Jhangvi of proscribed Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan/Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat to contest elections.
The Nacta’s law wing is working on these amendments, particularly on chapter IX of ‘The People Representation Act, 1976’ which deals with disqualifications of candidates intending to contest elections either for a Provincial Assembly, National Assembly or the Senate of Pakistan.
Clause (g) of this act is being considered for amendments like “a person propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to the Ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan [whose name was put on 4th schedule under ‘The ATA, 1997’], or morality, or the maintenance of public order—which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the Armed Forces of Pakistan—.”
The Nacta also wanted amendments to various sections of ‘The ATA, 1997’, Section 11 in particular, like “a person commits an offence if he invites support for a prescribed organisation — to support a prescribed organisation — or to be addressed by a person who belongs or professes to belong to a prescribed organisation — a person commit an offence if he addresses a meeting, or delivers a sermon to a religious gathering, by any means whether verbal, written, electronic, digital or otherwise, and the purpose of his address or sermon, is to encourage support for a prescribed organisation or to further its activates.”
The Nacta officials would be consulting the ECP as well for their input on this issue soon after Chaudhry Nisar Ali approves the drafts, officials added. This necessary process could take three to four months, they added.