President Arif Alvi signed the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Pakistan Army Act (Amendment) Bill, 2023 on Saturday.
Both legislation were passed by parliament during the coalition government’s duration and were sent to President Alvi for ratification.
The Army Act Bill
According to the bill’s provisions, unauthorised disclosure of information obtained in the interest of national security or in an official capacity will be severely punished for up to five years; however, disclosure with the permission of the Army Chief or an empowered officer will not be punished.
The bill also states that officials subject to the statute will be barred from participating in political activities for two years following their 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 electronic crime.
Official Secrets Act Bill
According to the bill’s Statement of Objects and Reasons, it is critical to revise the Official Secrets Act of 1923 and make it more effective in light of the changing social milieu in order to preserve the safety and security of official secrets.
Section 3 of the bill specified that a person commits an offence if he “approaches, inspects, passes over, or is in the vicinity of, or enters, attacks, destroys, or otherwise undermines any prohibited place” on purpose.
“The person shall commit an offence if he intentionally for any purpose makes any sketch, plan, model, or note which is calculated to be, might be, or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy,” the law states.
It further specified that a person commits an offence if he receives, gathers, records, publishes, or transmits to another person any secret official code or password, or any electronic or modem apparatus, drawing, or plan calculated to be or would be beneficial to an adversary of the State.
Meanwhile, Section 9 was amended to state that anybody who incites to commit, conspires to commit, or attempts to commit shall face imprisonment for a term of up to three years, a fine of up to one million dollars, or both.
The investigating officer will be chosen by the Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under the bill, and a joint investigation team may be formed if necessary.
The amended bill also gave intelligence services the authority to conduct warrantless searches “anywhere and at any time.”