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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Senate greenlights Army Act amendments: 5-year jail term for revealing sensitive information

The bill permits a punishment of up to five years if a person discloses any sensitive information in the interest of national security without prior permission of the army chief.

In a major development, the Senate approved a bill to amend the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, seeking stern action against anyone who discloses sensitive information pertaining to the army or seeks to malign the armed forces in any way.

According to the details, the bill, titled “Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2023”, was moved by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and was rushed through without being referred to a standing committee.

The bill stated those who disclose information against the interests of the country or the Pakistan Army will be dealt with under the Official Secrets Act and the Army Act.

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It further permits a punishment of up to five years if a person discloses any sensitive information in the interest of national security — obtained in an official capacity — without prior permission of the army chief.

“If any person, who is or has been subject to this Act, discloses or causes to be disclosed any information, acquired in an official capacity, which is or may be prejudicial to the security and interest of Pakistan or the Armed Forces of Pakistan, shall be guilty of an offence, and on conviction by the court constituted under this Act, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years,” the bill reads.

However, if someone does so “after seeking prior approval from the chief of army staff (COAS), or any officer duly empowered by him, in the manner prescribed” then it shall not be deemed as an “unauthorised disclosure”.

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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.

According to the bill, a person involved in electronic crime, whose purpose is to defame the Pakistan Army, will be prosecuted under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (Act XL of 2016) or relevant electronic, digital, and social media laws.