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ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed the federal government’s Railways (Amendment) Bill 2022 that seeks to amend the “colonial” Railways Act 1890 which awarded death penalty or life sentence, converted to life sentence only under the newly passed bill, to anyone found involved in endangering the safety of railway passengers.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar presented the bill in the Senate sitting presided over by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

The Senate chairman put up the bill before the house without referring it to the relevant standing committee amid no objection raised by the opposition.

The bill was passed by the National Assembly on Friday—and required to be signed into law by President Arif Alvi.

The Railways (Amendment) Bill 2022 seeks to amend Sections 126 and 127 of Railways Act, 1890.

Section 126 awarded death penalty or life imprisonment and imposed a fine of 20,000 rupees on anyone “with intent, or with knowledge that he is likely, to endanger the safety to any person travelling or being upon the railway or any property belonging to the railway or of such property, he shall, whether and injury to any person or property has actually been caused…”

Section 127 also awarded death penalty or life sentence and Rs20,000 on anyone who “unlawfully throws or causes to fall or strike at, against, into or upon any property belonging to any railway, including rolling- stock forming part or a train, any explosive substance, wood; stone or other matter or thing with intent, or with knowledge that he is likely, to endanger the safety of any person being in or upon such property.”

The new law enhances fine from Rs20,000 to Rs1,000,000.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of Railways (Amendment) Bill 2022, the death penalty “is used in a disproportionate manner under the Railways Act 1890 that violates the fundamental right to life which happens to be the most basic of all human rights. The risk of executing innocent people exists and the arbitrary application of the death penalty can never be ruled out under the raid law. Hence, the draft bill has been prepared to achieve the above said objects.”

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator and former railways minister Azam Swati appreciated the passage of this bill and urged the government to ensure that other controversial provisions of Railways Act, 1890 were also omitted.

Leader of the Opposition in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem from the PTI also spoke in support of the bill.

“It is good to see that a colonial law has been changed,” he said.

“The government should also ensure that other colonial laws like Section 144 that deny people their democratic right to assemble are abolished—and the democratic rights of the people are not usurped,” he said.

“I support the spirit of the opposition leader. I urge him to come join us for formulation of laws— let’s sit together, respect the Parliament and democracy,” Tarar replied.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office, in a written reply in the Senate, shared in the question hour, stated that bilateral trade between Pakistan and Malaysia saw “remarkable uptick” as Pakistan’s exports increased to $460 million (highest figure ever) in 2021-22 taking total trade volume to $1,723 million.

The Senate was adjourned due to a lack of quorum.

It will meet again on Friday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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