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Dec 06, 1999

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ATCs to be headed by HC judges

In a late-night development on Thursday, the president promulgated an ordinance amending the AntiTerrorism Act, 1997, to the extent that a special antiterrorism court will now consist of a high court judge.

Under section 13 of ATA, 1997, a Special Court for Anti Terrorism consisted of a judge who " is or has been a Session Judge or an Additional Session Judge".

After the amendment to section 13, a special court for anti-terrorism will consist of a judge who "is a Judge of High Court."

The provisions of the ordinance, called Anti-Terrorism (Third Amendment) Ordinance 1999, will have overriding effects, notwithstanding any other provision contained in any other law for the time being in force.

Through this amendment the president has provided a new sub section to section 13 of the Act.

The new section reads as: " Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (2) and subsection (3), the federal government or if so directed by the government, the provincial government shall, in addition to the existence to special courts or such other special courts as may be established in the area, establish one such additional special court under this at the principal seat of the Lahore High Court and the High Court of Sindh and appoint a judge of such High Court as a jude of special court in consultation with the chief justice of the High Court concerned, and where a judge of High Court is appointed as judge for any area under this Act, he shall be the administrative judge for that area and such administrative judge may, in addition to the powers exercisable under this Act, either suo motu or on the application of any party, at any stage or of the proceedings whether before or after framing of charge, for sufficient cause including as mentioned in sub-section (1) of section 28, transfer, withdraw or recall any case pending before any other special court in that area and may either try the case himself or make it over for trial to any other special court in that area."

Strategy to devolve power to lowest level

The federal minister for environment, local bodies and rural development, Omar Asghar Khan, has drawn up the military government's strategy for devolution of power to the grassroots level within the next couple of months.

At a press conference here on Wednesday, the minister spoke in detail on important aspects of the new district government set-up.

He said the government would ensure a legal cover to the new system, the establishment of an independent and powerful election commission, reform in civil bureaucracy, the generation and collection of local taxes, the transfer of funds from Centre to the district governments, the introduction of an effective audit system at the district level, etc.

Omar said discussions were continuing for evolving a system to decentralize powers at the grassroots level and added that the representatives of provincial governments, chambers of commerce, octroi, federation, etc., were invited to present their viewpoints on the matter.

WB wants Pakistan to use gas resources

Pakistan can significantly reduce the pressure on its balance-of payments (BOP) position by accelerated use of its gas resources, a World Bank aide-memoire submitted to the government on Nov 25 indicated.

A copy of the document specifically addressing the power sector, provided by a well-placed source in the finance ministry, states: "Pakistan reserves to production ratio of about 35 years indicates that current production is lower than warranted even without taking into account the recent substantial new gas discoveries."

In this aide-memoire, the WB has recommended an eight-point energy sector agenda for Pakistan, which includes the liberalization of the petroleum and gas sector.

IMF seeks increase in petrol prices

The military government has been told by the IMF to increase petroleum prices, levy general sales tax (GST) on retailers and sort out the IPPs' issue to qualify for the next tranche of $280 million.

Sources in the multilateral agencies told that the IMF had indicated its willingness to resume assistance to Pakistan without taking into account the political aspects relating to restoration of democracy. However, the military rulers were told that if they implemented some of the economic conditionalities, Pakistan could get the next tranche of $280 million (SDRs200) by the middle of December.

They said a five-member IMF mission would be arriving here next week to review the economy. The last such review was conducted in August but no instalment of $1.6 billion Extended Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) and Extended Fund Facility (EFF) was disbursed because of the "non-implementation" of the agreed reforms programme, including delay in the announcement of new petroleum prices.

NAB approved

President Rafiq Tarar has approved the setting up of the National Accountability Bureau with effect from Nov 16, according to a notification issued here on Tuesday by the Cabinet Division.

Six IPPs beg billing under new formula

The Six Independent Power producers, which had struck a deal with the government in September, began biding the government on the basis of new price formula, official sources confirmed on Monday. "The bills which have been sent to the government for October and some part of September are on the basis of the new agreement," an independent power producer said.

The billing under the new agreements is being done on the provisional basis, as the government has not yet concluded agreements with the remaining IPPs.

Gammon shifting its office

Gammon Pakistan Limited proposes to shift its registered office from Karachi to Rawalpindi, company sources disclosed. Gammon has indicated that a special resolution would be moved at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting to seek shareholders' approval for the shifting of the company's registered office. If the resolution carries through at the AGM on Dec 30, Gammon would join the list of growing number of companies that have moved from Karachi to upcountry.