Pakistan should eliminate Terrorism instead of using anti-Terrorism rules to limit Human Rights


The rise of terrorism has led to a rise in anti-terrorism regulations around the world. The problem this creates is the rise in bad laws and inhuman punishments. Pakistan is no exception to this phenomenon. According to leading human rights advocate and founder member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), I.A. Rahman “The world has learnt that the majesty of law is not established by curtailing due process and raising the scale of punishments; it is established by the people’s social uplift, guarantees of employment and fair wages, and by convincing the people that no one can avoid paying for breaking the law. Instead of putting the people at risk under bad laws, the executive should make policing and prosecution efficient and honest. Along with ATA, all other laws that clip due process and prescribe inhuman punishments need to be reviewed.”

Rahman notes that last week the Supreme Court of Pakistan “laid down the urgently needed guidelines on the applicability or otherwise of the antiterrorism law and asked parliament to make some essential changes to it. The judgement also offers much food for thought to jurists, students of law and civil society who interpret the rule of law as a rational, just and humanitarian dispensation. The issue before the court was whether the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) was rightly being invoked. The landmark judgement begins with a fairly comprehensive account of terrorist movements and activities across the globe from 2 BC to the 1990s, launched to secure political, ideological or religious objectives. Students of terrorism will find it useful. The court then refers approvingly to Prof David Rapoport’s theory of four waves of terrorist movements, to emphasise the point that terrorists’ goals have been changing with time. An extract from Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century follows, which reassures us that the people can defeat terrorists if they do not overreact to the theatre of terrorism and offer a balanced response.”

Further, “The court’s conclusion and direction that all actions must be judged by the objective as defined in the ATA — that an action, however grave, gruesome or horrifying, cannot be termed as terrorism if it is not committed with the design and purpose as mentioned in the law itself, and that actions taken in furtherance of personal enmity or private vendetta cannot be described as terrorism —should prevent wrongful application of the ATA. The court has suggested that the definition of terrorism in the ATA may be made simpler and succinct along with a change in the preamble and deletion from the Third Schedule of offences that have no nexus with terrorism.”

Finally, as Rahman states, “Pakistan has an unenviable record of the executive’s insatiable desire to nibble at due process with a view to denying the people their basic rights and freedoms. The history of the state’s love of brutal punishments and its tendency to address serious crime by compromising due process makes painful reading. The state’s search for deterrent punishments and its fondness for harsh laws, the level of impunity enjoyed by law-enforcement personnel and disregard for the requisites of fair trial are alienating the people from what the system of justice has become. The fact that only the poor are hanged in Pakistan or that no perpetrator of murderous attacks on the Hazara Shias has been punished has undermined respect for the justice system, which is also weakened each time a citizen falls a victim to enforced disappearance or a woman is killed to save a man’s primitive concept of honour. The number of people preferring the jirga system to the judicial process appears to have increased over the years, and now they are visible in the corridors of power too.”