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Pakistan

Senate passes Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill with majority vote

  • Govt withdraws the clause seeking to empower intelligence agencies to arrest citizens without a warrant
Published August 6, 2023

After fierce opposition, the Senate on Sunday approved the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, with a majority vote, Aaj News reported.

The National Assembly has already cleared the bill, after which it was referred to the relevant standing committee of the Senate last time it was presented in the upper house of Parliament after resistance from both sides of the aisle.

Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar tabled the bill in the upper house.

Presenting the bill today on behalf of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said some changes had been made to the bill.

He said after deliberation, the government had withdrawn the clause seeking to empower intelligence agencies to arrest citizens without a warrant.

He also outlined several other changes to the legislation and requested that it be put into passage.

Earlier this week, the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill was blocked in the upper house after a strong protest by government senators.

During the session on Sunday, the bill again received strong opposition but got approval with a majority vote.

Senator Mushtaq said the bill had many contentious issues and should not be passed in its current state.

“There are six amendments in the Official Secrets Act, and even military educational institutions and non-state actors have also been included in the bill,” the senator said.

However, he was not granted permission by the House to present amendments.

Senator Kamran Murtaza strongly criticised the timing of the bill when the government is about to complete its term.

“If this bill was so necessary, why wasn’t it introduced 15 months ago? After the outgoing government, who will be in power, no one knows,” he said.

Murtaza believed that such extraordinary powers should not be given to institutions. “Correct it now, otherwise, you could also fall victim to it,” he warned.

Senator Nawabzada Umar said such a bill should not be brought to the upper house.

“The current government that is legislating this will face consequences, political figures should not engage in such legislation,” Umar said.

Meanwhile on Sunday, the government withdrew the Prevention of Violent Extremism Bill 2023, a controversial legislative draft that received strong criticism from different senators from the two sides of the aisle.

Azam Nazeer Tarar presented the motion to withdraw the bill, which the House approved.

The Law minister stated that the bill was one and a half years old, prepared by the previous government, and they were withdrawing the bill on the prime minister’s special directive. The bill was not presented in the current cabinet, he said.

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