Pak Senate approves Army Act amendment to impose 5-year jail term for disclosing 'sensitive information'
A person making a disclosure with the permission of the chief of army staff or an authorised officer will not be punished
Pakistan's Senate on Thursday passed a bill to amend the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 which proposes up to five years in jail for anyone who discloses sensitive information about the country's security and army.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif moved the bill titled “Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2023” amidst the government's efforts to prosecute former prime minister Imran Khan on the 'cypher' issue.
The proposed bill states that a person who makes an unauthorised disclosure of information obtained in an official capacity for the security and benefit of Pakistan will be punished with rigorous imprisonment for up to five years.
A person making a disclosure with the permission of the chief of army staff or an authorised officer will not be punished, it said.
It also stated that anyone who discloses information against the interests of the country and the Pakistan Army will be dealt with under the Official Secrets Act and the Army Act, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.
Khan's ex-principal secretary Azam Khan earlier this month accused the 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician of using a cipher (secret diplomatic cable) from Pakistan’s mission in the US last year to gain political mileage and build an “anti-establishment narrative”.
A person subject to the Army Act shall not participate in any political activity until two years after his retirement, resignation, or dismissal from service. Neither would it be permissible for a person posted on sensitive duty to engage in political activity for five years following their service, it said.
Any individual found guilty of breaching the clauses barring political engagements would be liable for punishment of up to two years, it said.
Notably, the new law further says that if a person under the Army Act is involved in any electronic crime, the purpose of which is to defame the Pakistan Army, then action will be taken against them under the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act.
Thereby, any person found to be spreading hatred against the armed forces or defaming them will be liable for fines and imprisonment for up to two years, the report said.
In addition to the bill to amend the Army Act, two other bills for amending the Cantonment Act, 1924 and the Defence Housing Authority Islamabad Act, 2013 were also passed by the Senate.
Shortly after they were passed, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani staged a walkout over the haste in passing the bills, terming them “blind legislation”, the Dawn newspaper reported.
“When the bill is received in the morning, then how can the two-day notice be adhered to and it is taken up?” he was quoted as saying in the report.
“I think that the three or four bills passed right now... it is a black day in Parliament’s history because this is blind legislation — which means that we have no knowledge at all as to what each bill entails and how many sections there are in each bill — so I stage a token walkout against this blind legislation,” he said.