LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly has amended a law to give it powers to arrest and prosecute journalists, bureaucrats and lawmakers. The Provincial Assembly of the Punjab Privileges (Amendment) Act, 2021 was tabled by Pakistan People’s Party’s MPA Usman Mehmood as a private member’s bill. Under the Act, Sergeant-at-Arms now has the power to arrest any person on the orders of the Speaker, to prevent them from acting in any manner in breach of privileges within the precincts of the Assembly. The arrests can be made without warrant, at any place within the “precincts of the Assembly”, which has been defined as the assembly’s courtyard, hall, lobbies, press galleries and rooms. The new law also allows for the use of “reasonable force as may be necessary” when making the arrests. Now, the speaker “can in writing direct the arrest and detention in custody” of any member which can include a journalist, bureaucrat and any lawmaker. The Act further calls for the establishment of a Judicial Committee of the Assembly, notified by the Speaker, to try offences and award punishments and the sentence passed by Committee will have the same status as a sentence awarded by the Magistrate of 1st Class. For those convicted, the Act allows an appeal within 30 days, but to only the speaker of the Assembly.