Advani pledges support, but says government woke up too late (Lead)

December 17th, 2008 - 7:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Dec 17 (IANS) Opposition leader L.K. Advani Wednesday pledged support for two crucial bills introduced in parliament to fight terrorism, but accused the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of waking up too late on the issue.Speaking soon after Home Minister P. Chidambaram appealed to Lok Sabha members to pass the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) bills, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Advani said the government had acted only after the Nov 26 Mumbai terror attack that killed over 170 people.

“There are loopholes in the bills. But in principle I support the bills,” Advani said.

“I cannot express happiness but I express satisfaction today. You have today admitted that the government was wrong for 10 years and will rectify mistakes. You have woken up from Kumbhakaran’s sleep. I want that you admit that you were wrong,” said Advani.

He said the US, Britain, Germany and even Pakistan had introduced tough anti-terror laws after 9/11.

“You attacked us (BJP) as if we have committed a crime when we ushered in The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA),” he said. POTA was enacted by the BJP in March 2002.

“In the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme (CMP), you had pledged that POTA would be repealed. Now I am very happy because you have taken a U-turn,” Advani said.

“The dimension of the Mumbai attack needed to be looked at differently as terrorists identified foreign nationals in The Taj hotel and The Oberoi Trident and killed them.

“We have woken up because the whole world thinks we are soft on terror, and Mumbai is what made us act.”

The bill to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act has stringent provisions, including detention period of 180 days, instead of the present 90, and denial of bail to a foreigner accused of terrorism in India.

The amendments also provide for freezing, seizing and attaching funds and other financial assets or economic resources held by individuals or entities engaged in or suspected to be engaged in terrorism.

“In order to deal with terrorism, we need a legal framework,” the former deputy prime minister said.

“The law to fight terrorism is a law against terror. I hope you will not claim that the earlier law was communal while this one is secular. Keep these glasses aside and see (the anti-terror law) independently to combat terror,” exhorted Advani.

“You have harmed the country by seeing the law through the prism of minority and majority.”

Referring to the delay in carrying out the execution of Afzal Guru, convicted in the 2001 parliament attack case, he said the attitude of the goverment should be changed.

Advani also hoped that provisions relating to telephone taps would be included in the bill and that confessions before a police officer would be treated as admissible evidence.

“The country is outraged by what is happening and has happened. (People’s) anger is justified. Terrorism is a special evil.”

Taking a swipe at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Advani said he was amazed when the former agreed to a joint mechanism with Pakistan to fight terror.

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