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ISLAMABAD: Senate Monday passed The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill 2021 - a private-member bill that seeks to criminalize custodial torture and deaths - moved by Sherry Rehman from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) with the support of treasury benches.

At the first sitting of 313th Senate session presided over by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, the PPP senator presented the bill, following its passage from the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari termed it 'a much needed bill,' before the bill was passed.

Rehman, the bill's mover, acknowledged Mazari and her ministry's support to the bill and thanked them.

The bill seeks to "criminalize and prevent custodial torture and death, which are both a widespread and common occurrence in the criminal justice system of Pakistan. The Act also aims to facilitate redress to victims and survivors of custodial torture, who predominantly belong to economically and socially disadvantaged groups in our society."

Leader of the House in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem said the treasury benches' support to Rehman's bill proves that government supports "every good piece of legislation regardless of where it comes from."

He said "We don't see who the mover of this bill is and what party he/she represents. We support everything that is beneficial for this country and the society."

Rehman moved another bill, The Islamabad Capital Territory Domestic Workers Bill 2021 that was referred to the relevant Senate committee on the recommendation of human rights minister.

"We are not opposed to this bill but there are certain things need to be corrected in this bill," Mazari said.

Later, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan informed the Senate that some 5,557 bank accounts were blocked in Karachi while funds exceeding 2.8 billion (2,888.087 million) rupees were frozen across the country as part of federal government's strategy to tighten noose around terrorism financing.

He was sharing details of the steps taken by federal government against terrorism financing.

Some 79 entities been put on the list of proscribed organisations out of which four are under observation, Khan said.

He said 3,227 individuals have been placed on Schedule 4 list. "It is by virtue of our effective measures against the terrorism that this menace has seen a massive decline in Pakistan," the minister said.

Sharing relevant details, he said 1,139 terrorist attacks were recorded in Pakistan in 2015 that were reduced to 785 in the year 2016, 741 in 2017, 584 in 2018, 482 in 2019, 381 in 2020 and there have been only 304 terrorist activities in 2021 (so far). On the situation in Afghanistan, he said, "Prime Minister Imran Khan made it clear (to the United States) that we are partners in peace, not in conflict, that's what Afghans wanted to hear for decades-from the chief executive of this country."

Shahzad Waseem said Pakistan Army carried out border-fencing of Pak-Afghan border amidst highly challenging conditions in one of the most difficult terrains of the world. He said arrangements are being made to stem the influx of Afghan refugees-to prevent them from entering Pakistan.

"We would try to keep the refugees at the Afghan side of the border - we would work in cooperation with international organisations-to ensure that Afghan refugees are granted the status of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) instead of refugees so that they stay at the Afghan side of the border and are provided humanitarian assistance there. But if the refugees cross the border and enter Pakistan, then they would be contained. The mistakes of the past would not be repeated," Waseem maintained.

He said Pakistan faces the threat of resurgence of terrorism due to Afghan situation. "India is playing the role of a spoiler... but we are fully aware of the situation and taking steps accordingly," he said. Responding to a resolution moved by Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Ali Muhammad Khan said Finance Division paid Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Rs 25 billion out of total arrears of Rs 36 billion, from 2016 till date, under the head of net profit for hydropower generation. Apart from that, new bills were moved in the House and referred to the relevant standing committees.

These included The Constitution Amendment Bill 2021 (Amendment in Article 130), The Constitution Amendment Bill 2021(Amendment in Article 9), The Constitution Amendment Bill 2021(Insertion of Article 38A), The Constitution Amendment Bill 2021(Amendment in Article 89), The China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority (Amendment) Bill 2021, The Pakistan Penal Code Amendment Bill 2021 and The Constitution Amendment Bill 2021(Insertion of Article 17A and Amendment of Articles 51 and 106).

Meanwhile, the chairman Senate took notice of abduction of Awami National Party (ANP) leader Obaidullah Kasi and directed Secretary Senate Qasim Samad Khan to write to Balochistan government and secretary interior for the recovery of Kasi at the earliest. The House would meet again today.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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