Swat operation prisoners: Military pushes for stalled anti-terrorism bill

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 9:00:24 by

ISLAMABAD: Military authorities have once again reminded the political leadership to clear the impending legislation aimed at amending laws governing the country’s anti-terror regime for the trial of over 2,000 Taliban associates detained during the 2009 Swat operation.

Officials told The Express Tribune on Monday that the reminder from the military to amend the Anti Terrorism Act, 1997, came days after home-grown militants linked with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) stormed a jail in Bannu.

The incident, according to officials dealing with the disposal of detained militants, alarmed both civilian and military authorities about the safety and security of detention facilities where hardened miscreants were kept.

More than 2,000 militants loyal to fugitive Swat Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah aka ‘Mullah Radio’ were killed and the same number of Taliban foot soldiers detained during the military operation in the valley in the summer of 2009.

All these militants are reportedly being kept in detention centres run by the military but their fate is not clear in the absence of clear laws on prosecution in terrorism cases.

A spokesperson for the military said the armed forces were ready to withdraw troops from Swat but could not do that till the final disposal of the terrorists detained during the operation.

“It will restore the lost confidence of the people of Swat … they are worried and want a decision on it as soon as possible,” said Major General Athar Abbas, the chief of the military’s media wing, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).

He said the military forwarded its proposals to the civilian leadership some two-and-a-half years ago but the legislation was still pending, leaving authorities clueless on how to move forward.

The only thing that had so far come in response to the proposals, he added, was that the military was allowed to maintain internment centres in the tribal and semi-tribal areas under the Action (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation 2011.

The Terrorism Amendment Bill was introduced in the Senate back in 2010 but there has not been any development on it since then because many lawmakers objected to the sweeping powers it proposed for the military during the investigation process.

According to the bill, trial of the arrested terrorists was proposed to be held in camera.

The bill put forward that those who run illegal FM radio channels would also be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Bill since according to the draft, resistance against law enforcement agencies would also be considered an act of sabotage.

The draft also proposes that the remand of arrested terrorists would last for 90 days. Any attack on security forces or damage to commercial buildings would also come under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Terrorists would be investigated by an officer not below the rank of a sub-inspector. In addition, the investigation team will consist of five Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials and other members of law enforcement agencies.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.

Islamabad News Sources -2

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