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Pakistan urged to axe counter-terrorism bill

New York : Pakistan’s government should withdraw a counter-terrorism bill which threatens basic rights and freedoms in violation of international legal obligations, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly passed the Protection of Pakistan Bill to replace the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance, which the Senate refused to approve in April over concerns about its potential to violate human rights.

The Senate approved the new bill July 1 and President Mamnoon Hussain is expected to sign it into law within days.

“This vague … counter-terrorism law gives a green light for abusing suspects in detention, which is already far too common in Pakistan,” said Phelim Kine of Human Rights Watch.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif … should ensure that this law is replaced by one that ensures the protection of basic rights in the fight against terrorism.”

The new law would violate fundamental rights to freedom of speech, privacy, peaceful assembly, and due process protections embodied in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Pakistan ratified in 2010, the US-based rights body said.

In its current form, the law could be used to suppress peaceful political opposition and criticism of government policy, Human Rights Watch said.