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Sindh CM says new law will strengthen prosecution

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah. — APP/File

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah defended on Saturday the passage of a key amendment bill in the provincial assembly that empowered it to “withdraw from the prosecution” of any accused facing trial in a court, saying that the bill was passed in line with the apex committee’s recommendations.

The Pakistan Peoples Party passed the amendment bill in the Sindh Assembly on Friday, empowering its government to “withdraw from the prosecution” of any person being tried by any court before the final judgement of the case, or cases, against him/her.

The CM, who had earlier remained silent on the move, however, took an opportunity on Saturday while talking to the media after attending the 28th passing out parade of the participants in the elite course at the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Elite Police Training Centre, Razakabad, to reject the opposition parties’ concerns which came up with strong reaction as their members tore up copies of the bill and chanted ‘No, No’ when the PPP legislators got it passed.

“The amendment to the criminal prosecution law has been made in the light of the apex committee decisions,” he said while talking to reporters after the parade. “This is very simple that the prosecution has been strengthened. Apart from that, the prosecutor would be able to withdraw the allegation when he would find them without substance not only on his own but with the consent of the court. The hue and cry is being made just to make the headlines.”

After gubernatorial assent to the Sindh Criminal Prosecution Service (Constitution, functions and powers) (Amendment) Bill, 2015, the provincial government, through its prosecutor general, will not only be able to discharge any accused but also take disciplinary action against any investigator and call record from any law enforcement agency.

Although the government claimed that it amended the 2009 criminal prosecution law to comply with decisions of the superior judiciary, it is widely believed that the new amendments would benefit the ruling party, its key leaders and certain bureaucrats, most of whom are facing corruption probes against them.

The chief minister argued that the recent amendment was made to enhance the conviction rate by the antiterrorism courts, which stood at 10 per cent. The government effort would not only improve the conviction ratio but also lead to better prosecution.

“When our government had taken over, the budget for law and order was Rs14 billion and now it stands at Rs60 billion,” he said. “This is because we have not only increased the salaries of policemen but have also enhanced the compensation for heirs of martyrs just to inculcate the spirit of confidence and motivation among the policemen and other law enforcement agencies personnel.”

He said the government had given special attention to the capacity building of the police force while upgrading training centres and acquiring services of army officers to train policemen. He added: “I am thankful to Army Chief General Raheel Shareef that he has extended his full support and cooperation in police trainings and equip them with latest gadgets.”

Earlier he lauded efforts of the Sindh police and said that the law enforcement agency had made great sacrifices for bringing peace back to Karachi and other parts of the province while fighting terrorism, which posed multiple challenges.

“Whether it’s the militant Islamic State group or the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, they are two sides of the same coin as both are terrorists and I consider them as the enemy of humanity and Islam,” he said. “Their designs and intention are the same. They have just different names to confuse the people. This is not a question whether IS exists here in Sindh or not as the fact is terrorists exist here and our police and Rangers have launched a vigorous operation against them that has returned encouraging and commendable results.”

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2016