RSIL Project on Counter-Terrorism and National Security
In January 2012 the Research Society of International Law, Pakistan (RSIL) initiated its ‘Project on Counter-Terrorism and National Security’ with support from the British High Commission (BHC). The Project was developed with the aim of finding legal solutions to the scourge of terrorism in Pakistan. The first phase of this project sought solutions within the existing legal system and focused on administrative reform. This looked at the functioning of counter-terrorism police units in the country and how they operated. RSIL assessed means of improving the efficiency and coordination of such law enforcement groups through devising a hierarchy of terrorism cases. RSIL proposed the creation of a category of High Profile Cases of Terrorism (HPCT). Once such a designation was made, standard operating procedures would be triggered allowing various law enforcement agencies to better coordinate their personnel and apportion adequate resources. This would prove beneficial when conducting inter-agency investigations as well as counter-terrorism operations.
During this phase, RSIL also proposed significant administrative reforms in the area of witness protection. By better utilizing Section 21 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, judges could ensure that witnesses were provided the necessary protections during and after trial. To minimize the danger that witnesses may be exposed to during trial, RSIL proposed various in court mechanisms to shield the witnessed. This included the use of video-conferencing, barriers in court, disguises, and anonymity.
This phase also witnessed significant research in prosecutorial reform, forensics and evidence, police capacity and training, among others. RSIL’s findings were shared with the relevant stakeholders and have played a significant role in shaping contemporary debate on counter-terrorism and administrative reform.
In June 2013 RSIL launched phase two of the Project on Counter-Terrorism and National Security. Commissioned by the BHC, phase two involved a comprehensive review and assessment of the contours and effectiveness of the current counter-terrorism legal framework and infrastructure in Pakistan. This phase had two primary objectives: first, to examine the contemporary counter-terrorism legal framework and identify lacunae and areas of growth; and second, to provide concrete and viable solutions which, if implemented, could improve the effectiveness of the domestic counter-terrorism regime while, at the same time, better protect individual rights.
Phase two entailed an exhaustive examination of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 (ATA) as well as the jurisprudential framework which had developed around the Act since its promulgation in 1997. The baseline of RSIL’s research for this phase was an analysis of all the appellate jurisprudence relating to ATA. Accordingly, the RSIL team perused the yearly law digests of the Supreme Court and High Courts spanning the period of 1997 – 2013, collating and analyzing over 900 judgments of the Appellate Courts relating to the ATA. The summaries of these judgments were also published in a five-volume compendium.
Interviews were also conducted with a diverse array of government officials from departments associated with Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts, to determine what the on-ground realities were in the fight against terror and to identify areas where the contemporary counter-terrorism framework was lacking. This phase also necessitated a comparative analysis of counter-terrorism legislation in other jurisdictions, with legal ‘best practices’ in the realm of counter-terrorism – which could prove viable in the domestic context – also identified.
The results of RSIL’s findings were synthesized into a comprehensive report detailing the contemporary counter-terrorism legal context in Pakistan. Titled ‘The Case for Change: A Review of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997’, this report provided a comprehensive review and assessment of the effectiveness of the current domestic counter-terrorism legal framework and infrastructure. The report was structured in the form of a consultation document or ‘White Paper’, to provide relevant stakeholders with requisite information on the specific weaknesses of the current framework and present policy preferences prior to the introduction of legislation.
The phase culminated with RSIL proposing a Pakistan-specific ‘Model’ Counter-Terrorism Law. Drafted as a potential template for future counter-terrorism legislation, this draft bill was prepared with the input of numerous stakeholders from within the government, the military establishment, civil society and the media. The goal of this Model Counter-Terrorism Law was to inform any future drafting of a revised Counter-Terrorism Act to balance the need to provide an effective defence against extremist activity with the necessary constitutional and legal
RSIL is currently conducting on-going research for phase three of the Project. This phase looks at recent legislative reform and assesses the potential impact such measures will have on human rights and the overall counter-terrorism effort. This phase has witnessed policy briefs and research being conducted on the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (now enacted as the Protection of Pakistan Act 2014), the Investigation for Fair Trial Act 2013, the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act 2014, among others.
International Law Instruments