President Alvi signs Army Act amendment, Official Secrets Act bills

Army amendment act

ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Saturday reportedly signed the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and Pakistan Army Act (Amendment) Bill, 2023 making them into a law.

Both the bills were passed by the parliament during the tenure of the coalition government and were sent to President Alvi for ratification.

According to the contents of the Army Act amendment bill, unauthorized disclosure of information obtained in the interest of national security and interest in the official capacity will be severely punished for up to five years, the disclosure with the permission of the Army Chief or the empowered officer will not be punished.

The bill also said that officials that fall under the law will not be able to participate in political activities within two years of retirement, resignation or dismissal.

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According to the bill, a person involved in electronic crime, whose purpose is to defame the Pakistan Army, will be prosecuted under electronic crime.

According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Official Secrets Act Bill –  it is imperative to amend the Official Secrets Act 1923 and make it more effective in view of the changing social milieu to ensure safety and security of official documents.

Section 3 of the bill stated that a person shall commit an offence if he intentionally for any purpose “approaches, inspects, passes over or is in the vicinity of, or enters, attacks, destroys or otherwise undermines any prohibited place”

“The person shall commit an offence if he intentionally for any purpose makes any sketch, plan, model, or note which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy,” it added.

It further stated that a person shall commit an offence if he obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret official code or password, or any electronic or modem device, sketch, plan which is calculated to be or might be useful to an enemy of the State.

Meanwhile, amendment of Section 9 stated that any person who incites to commit, conspires to commit, attempts to commit, shall be liable to punishment of imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine which may extend to one million, or both.

Under the bill, the investigating officer will be from Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and the said officer will be appointed by DG FIA, and a joint investigation team can also be formed if necessary.

The amendment bill also granted intelligence agencies powers to conduct warrantless searches ‘anywhere and anytime’.

It merits mentioning that when the Official Secrets Act amendment bill was presented in the Senate, the government allies along with the opposition were furious and People’s Party’s senator Raza Rabbani even tore several copies of the bills.

PTI, Jamaat-e-Islami, MQM-Pakistan, National Party and PK MAP including Dr. Afanullah of Muslim League-N and many senators protested against the bill, on which the Chairman Senate sent the bill to the Standing committee.

Later, some controversial clauses from the Official Secrets Amendment Bill and the Army Act were removed and re-presented in the Senate, which was approved by both houses of the parliament and sent to the President for ratification.

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