Pakistan delays approving bioweapons bill

Pakistan recently delayed the approval of a bill designed to implement the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention after lawmakers questioned several of its clauses.

The National Assembly's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs has deferred the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Implementation Bill of 2011 and has asked Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir to explain how the government plans to carry out its enforcement, according to

The committee was particularly concerned with a clause stating, "The federal government shall designate any law enforcement agency or agencies for the enforcement of this Act, or it may entrust any of its functions under the Act to any government body, agency or entity."

Committee members asked the foreign secretary to explain the clause further, and have also asked him to specify which agency would be charged with the duty of enforcing the act.

The proposed legislation bans the use of biological weapons both inside and outside of Pakistan. It recommends violators of the act be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Those who illegally possess the materials or technology to produce such weapons can have their property seized by the federal government, reports.

Bashir told the committee that the bill should be viewed as unrelated to the war on terror, and reminded lawmakers that 164 countries have taken steps to ratify the convention.

Pakistan signed the BTWC in 1972 and ratified it in 1974. Since then, it has remained a vocal advocate of the international treaty, though it has been accused of conducting research into biological weapons since the early 1990's, according to