Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif | Image: Facebook/MianShehbazSharif
Pakistan's Parliament has amended the army laws to jail up to five years for disclosing sensitive information about the security of the military and the country.
The outgoing National Assembly on Monday endorsed the proposed amendments to the stringent Pakistan Army Act, 1952, after the same bill was passed by the Senate last week.
After endorsement by the two houses, the bill would become an act after being signed by President Arif Alvi.
The move comes amidst efforts by the current government to bring to justice the supporters of former prime minister and opposition leader Imran Khan who attacked several key military installations on May 9 following his arrest in an alleged corruption case. Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party was released later.
The Dawn newspaper reported that the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2023 proposes adding Section 26-A to the act under which “anyone who discloses or causes to be disclosed any information…shall be […] punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years”.
If the information is approved by the army chief it would not be considered a violation.
The bill also proposes introducing Section 26-B, which forbids any person subject to the army act from engaging in any political activity for two years from the date of their “retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service”.
It further proposed that those who “remained posted, employed, seconded, tasked or otherwise attached on sensitive duties” were forbidden from taking part in “political activity of any kind, during five years from the date of his retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service”.
In case of violation, a court constituted under the army act can punish them with “rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years”.
Section 55-A forbids any person subject to the Army act in the past five years from “directly or indirectly enter[ing] into employment, consultation or other engagement with an entity having a conflict of interest” with the activities of the army or its affiliates.
However, the law does not apply to those who seek prior approval from the army chief.
A person guilty of the said offence can be imprisoned for up to “two years with fine not exceeding Rs 500,000 or with both”, the amendment said.
Section 55-B states that any person, who is or has been subject to the army act, and commits an offence under the Peca 2016 “with the mala fide intention to undermine, ridicule, or scandalise the armed forces” shall be punished in the manner as prescribed in the Peca law.
Section 55-C states that a person who is or has been subject to the army act, “intentionally ridicules, scandalises, brings into hatred or otherwise attempts to lower the armed forces of Pakistan or any part will be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years or fine or with both”.
A clause introduced to Section 176-C proposes that the army chief “may delegate any of his powers and functions conferred by, or delegated under this act, to any officer or authority subordinate to him”.
Meanwhile, the addition of Section 176-E proposes that the laws under the act “shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other law, rules or regulations for the time being in force”, adding that any such inconsistent law shall, “to the extent of any inconsistency, cease to have effect”.
Section 175-E of the legislation says that the army, upon direction from or with the concurrence of relevant authorities of the federal or provincial governments, may directly or indirectly carry out activities related to national development and advancement of national or strategic interests.
“Provided that all such activities already undertaken shall be deemed and always to have done under this Act,” the clause says.
Earlier, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar presented the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2023 and clarified the changes made in the army law would not apply to civilians.
The Dawn report said the National Assembly also passed six other bills on Monday, including the Pakistan Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill, 2023, aiming to create a fund to promote investment in the country.
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