Pak needs to come up with effective terror legislation
There is a need to come up with an effective legislation to tackle terrorism in the country, as the world has changed after 9/11. This was the dominant view on a public forum on "Anti-terrorism laws in Pakistan: the quest to balance civil liberties and addressing terrorism".
The Forum was chaired by Shahid Hamid, former governor of Punjab, while Lord Alex Carlile, the former Independent Reviewer of UK Counter-Terrorism Legislation, was the key speaker in the Forum.
Lord Carlile shared his experience of strengthening legislation to tackle counter-terrorism. He underlined that there has to be a narrative that deals with the counter terrorism strategy. Lord Carlile said that the UK's definition of terrorism is narrower. He agreed that it is to be rec- ognized that Pakistan is the frontline state against terrorism. An effective way out of tackling terrorism would be "shared solutions toward shared problems." Lord Carlile said that it is an art of maintaining an effective balance between civil liberties and counter-terrorism.
Probing as to why Pakistan has a low conviction rate and the UK, a high rate, Lord Carlile said that the judiciary is the key to this effect. He said that not only do they have to be safe and secure, but they also need to be properly paid.
Moreover, the judges need to have certain expertise, disagreeing with the notion that all judges can deal with anti-terrorism cases. In the UK, he said, there is a judicial appointment commission which enforces that all judges, starting off at the district level, have to pass a written examination and undergo an interview.
The competence of a judge includes absorbing diversity and comfort in dealing with others, leading to a considerable improvement in quality of judges.
Lord Carlile clarified that there "absolutely no use of the best judge if the case if badly prepared." To this end, he shared the process through which the evidence makes the way from crime scene to forensic laboratory to present in the court.
Shahid Hamid, while explaining the legislation in Pakistan regarding Anti-Terrorism said that so far, there are two legislative instruments that deal with terrorism.
The first such bill is the AntiTerrorism Act which was originally drafted in 1997; the law has since then been amended in 2001 and 2004. The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2010 was intro- duced in the Senate of Pakistan by the Federal Interior Minister on July 27, 2010. The second bill which curbs financial aspect of terrorism is the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010. The Act, he said, itself came in the backdrop of Pakistan's commitment to the United Nation's 1998 Resolution which asked for the states to come up with measures to control money laundering. The law requires reporting any suspicious transaction beyond Rs. 25 lakh.
Shahid Hamid also compared that nature of terrorism have become further destructive since the law was first introduced. He said that unlike in the 1990s, a terrorist or his organization was identifiable, today, terrorists groups appear on the horizon after a "suicide bomb" occurs.
Moreover, whereas in the past, the terrorist groups had some popular support on which they had to rely, today, these groups don't even eye for popular support.
He also said that the present-day terrorists detonate explosives instead of are engaged in firearms, as mostly happened in the past. These groups, he said, espouse an "ideological" agenda with some having "territorial ambitions."
Despite these laws, he lamented, the conviction rate in the country is low. He said according to a report, there were less than 700 cases of money laundering were reported, out of which only four (4) were prosecuted and none convicted. Mr. Shahid Hamid that during the same time frame, none has being convicted in India and only one has been convicted in Bangladesh.
He further said that the definition of terrorism is so wide that if somebody throws a brickbat at the police, he or she can put on trial for conducting terrorism.
Mr. Hamid recommended that the number of days for detention need to be looked into, and those institutions that train suicide bombers need to be investigated. Likewise, the law needs to deal with the violence caused by explosives, which were not much an issue in 1997. Mr. Shahid Hamid shared the Investigation into Fair Trial Bill makes digital information as admissible evidence even prior to the lodging of the FIR. He recommended that it would be better to remove the clause restricting phone-tapping of parliamentarians.
Parliamentarians, academia, civil society and media participated in large numbers in the Forum. Ms. Asiya Nasir, MNA ( NA 322, Balochistan, JUI-F) said that it is difficult for her to understand the application of the term "terrorism" on bombs from a suicide bomber or from above. She said we do not want to facilitate any legislation which intrudes upon the civil liberties of the citizens. Ms. Tasneem Sidduqi, MNA, (NA-285, Punjab, PML-N) said that the living standards of the people need to be improved if terrorism is to be fought effectively.
Earlier, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director of PILDAT, said that are no two opinions that Pakistan is faced with a gigantic challenge of continued and increased acts of terrorism in almost all parts of the country.
He said that whereas the current 13th National Assembly and the Senate have a healthy record of legislation at least in a relative sense, the two areas where the parliament has not been able to successfully legislate are Accountability and Counter-terrorism.