The Punjab government is going to ask the centre to permit the intelligence agencies to arrest and detain for up to five months any person without giving any reasons or allowing a trial, The Express Tribune has learnt.
This private maneuvering is even more surprising since the Punjab government, led by Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), has criticised the intelligence agencies on the floor of the house for its interference in the political and administrative affairs of the country. However, the official said, the proposal will sent to the federal government after the chief minister approves it.
A senior home department official said that this proposal is still in the discussion stage and simply reflects the view of the Punjab government. It will only become law if the federal government decides to go through with it.
Ironically, according to an official involved with the development, the proposal comes after the Supreme Court of Pakistan directed the federal government to pass legislation defining the functions of the intelligence agencies. The SC order was meant to tackle the prevalence of incidents where people are picked up and declared ‘missing’.
Currently, the police and Federal Investigation Agency can only conduct raids and arrest suspects under section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code after an FIR is filed. The Pakistan Rangers, under an exception granted by the interior ministry, can make arrests under national security grounds but only within a four-kilometre radius of the border.
A senior police official said giving the intelligence agencies this power would give them a free hand to pick up anyone suspected of being involved in anti-state activities and terrorism. The police official said that the chance of this extra power being misused is high.
Senior advocate Muhammad Anwer Shaheen said the role of intelligence agencies should be limited to the collection of intelligence, which should then be passed on to law-enforcement agencies.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2011.