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Preventive Detention: A Guide to Pakistan’s Operations

This guide was published by the Conflict Law Centre at RSIL in November 2016. It contains an in depth examination of the use of preventive detention or internment in Pakistan’s domestic law and practice. Preventive detention is employed as an aid during Armed Forces or counterterrorism operations as an alternative to the greater use of force against persons and groups engaged in violent anti-state or extremist activity. The international and domestic law with respect to preventive detention is equally detailed and vague. In some instances, particularly with regards to international armed conflicts, international humanitarian law (IHL) provides extensive grounds and procedures for depriving persons of their liberty. However, with respect to non-international armed conflicts, IHL is far less forthcoming. In a purely domestic non-armed conflict scenario, human rights also provides that the deprivation of liberty may not be arbitrary, however, the law is not so extensive so as to preclude the use of preventive detention altogether.

Within Pakistan’s domestic law, there are several overlapping regimes that provide the basis for preventive detention, along with procedure, which in some instances is quite detailed. To maintain lawful operations, however, is a difficult task, particularly when detention is used outside of the context of an armed conflict. This means that international legal obligations vis-à-vis the use of preventive detention must be strictly followed (both in law and practice) to retain both its legality and legitimacy.

This Guide is divided into seven chapters with four corresponding appendices and provides an extensive overview of preventive detention operations in Pakistan. Chapter One addresses the legal basis for preventive detention; Chapter Two provides an overview of general detention operations; Chapter Three discusses the justification for use of preventive detention in various contexts; Chapter Four provides procedures for processing detainees from the point of capture; Chapter Five examines the facilities in which detainees are kept and the facilities they are provided; Chapter Six discusses the rehabilitation of detainees through de-radicalization programs; and Chapter Seven discusses the end of the preventive detention of a detainee through release or transfer for adjudication.

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Research team


  • Ahmer Bilal Soofi, President RSIL AND Advocate Supreme Court Of Pakistan
  • JAMAL AZIZ, LLB (LOND.), LLM (UCL)/ Executive Director RSIL


  • Muhammad Oves Anwar, LLB (Lond.) LLM (SOAS), LLM (Vienna), D.U. (Montpellier) – Director Conflict Law Centre
  • Maira Sheikh, J.D. (Notre Dame) – Senior Research Fellow
  • Moghees Khan, LLB (Lond.), LLM (Warwick) – Research Fellow
  • Zainab Mustafa, LLB (Lond.), LLM (Warwick) – Research Associate
  • Minahil Khan, LLB (Lond.), LLM (Sussex) – Research Associate