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ISLAMABAD: After Senate, the National Assembly on Monday passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023, proposing a five-year punishment for any person found guilty of disclosing unauthorized information about Pakistan’s security or the armed forces.

The bill which was supposed to be moved by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, was presented by Law and Justice Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar due to his absence, was passed by the house amid thin attendance, as some members belonging to both treasury and opposition were missing.

According to clause 8 of the bill, “if any person, who is or has been subject to this Act, discloses or causes to be disclosed any information, acquired in official capacity, which is or may be prejudicial to the security and interest of Pakistan or the Armed Forces of Pakistan, shall be guilty of an offence, and on conviction by the court constituted under this Act, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years”.

Deliberating upon the bill before its passage from the house, the law minister said that no clause of the bill would be applied to any civilian.

The bill; however, said any person who discloses such information after seeking authorization from the army chief or an authorized military official, will not be considered guilty of the offence.

The bill also proposed barring any person subject to the Army Act from engaging in any political activity for two years from the date of their “retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from service.”

“While those employed, seconded, tasked, or otherwise attached to sensitive duties under the act would be barred from political activities for five years after they leave their posts,” it added.

“Whoever violates (the conditions) on conviction by the court constituted under this Act, would be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years.”

The bill said action would also be taken against those involved in defaming the military, adding that they would be punished under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, or the relevant electronic, digital, and social media laws.

“A personnel who is or has been subject to this act intentionally ridicules, scandalizes, brings into hatred or otherwise attempts to lower the Armed Forces of Pakistan or any part thereof in the estimation of others shall, on conviction by a court constituted under this act, in the prescribed manner, be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years or fine or with both,” it added.

Section 55-A forbids any person subject to the Army Act in the past five years from “directly or indirectly enter(ing) into employment, consultation or other engagement with an entity having a conflict of interest” with the activities of the army or its affiliates.

However, the law does not apply to those who seek prior approval from the COAS. A person guilty of the said offence can be imprisoned for up to “two years with fine not exceeding Rs500,000 or with both”, the bill stated.

A clause introduced to Section 176-C proposed that the COAS “may delegate any of his powers and functions conferred by, or delegated under this act, to any officer or authority subordinate to him”.

Meanwhile, the addition of Section 176-E proposed that the laws under the act “shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other law, rules or regulations for the time being in force”, adding that any such inconsistent law shall, “to the extent of any inconsistency, cease to have effect”.

Meanwhile, the house also passed six more bills which include the Pakistan Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill, 2023, the National Commission for Human Development (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology, Islamabad (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Defence Housing Authority Islamabad (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Cantonments (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Board of Investment (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

At the outset of the session, the lawmakers strongly condemned the terrorists attack in Bajaur district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa a day ago, which claimed more than 46 precious lives.

They were unanimous in saying there should be a united response to eradicate the menace of terrorism from the country, adding a comprehensive strategy to cope with the challenge should be adopted without any further delay.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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