The Case for Change: A Review of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997

This report is RSIL’s flagship publication on counter-terrorism and was published September 2013 with support of the British High Commission, Islamabad. The report contains an exhaustive review of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and is intended as a unofficial ‘White Paper’ on counter-terrorism legislative reform in Pakistan.

The Report aims to comprehensively provide workable solutions to enhance all aspects of the anti-terror criminal justice process. With the severity of the threat in Pakistan the need to balance ATA special powers with human rights concerns was deemed paramount. As it currently exists, the ATA does not always find an acceptable balance and the judiciary has repeatedly raised this concern in various judgments since 1997. The Report attempts to address much of the judiciaries concerns. While the Report aims to minimize the encroachment on fundamental rights it does keep ground realities in sight when reviewing the Anti-terrorism Act and proposing recommendations for reform. This has required us to delve into considerable detail to fully inform the reader regarding the justification for some of our proposals made in this report.

The Report is a complete review of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 (ATA) and has exhaustively examined the major themes present in the ATA. The Report is structured on chapters that begin with a description of the specific legal provisions relevant to a particular theme of the ATA, it is then followed by discussion on the potential legislative defects of that provision and finally by recommendations.

The RSIL research team has examined each relevant chapter of the ATA through several layers of analysis. Firstly, the provisions are analyzed in relation to the reception they receive from the judiciary. This aspect of our research was informed by a previous study conducted by RSIL which analyzed and summarized over 800 reported judgments of the superior judiciary of Pakistan relating to terrorism. Secondly, special powers granted to the police, armed forces, civil armed forces, anti-terrorism courts, and the Federal and Provincial Governments have been analyzed in relation to the ordinary criminal procedure contained in the Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan (Act V of 1898). Thirdly, where relevant, the ATA was compared to related criminal legislation in Pakistan and the Constitution of Pakistan. Fourthly, an examination of the ATA was made in relation to anti-terror laws of other common law jurisdictions.

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Project Researchers:

Islamabad Division

Jamal Aziz LL.B (London), LL.M (Warwick)

Muhammad Oves Anwar LL.B (London), LL.M (SOAS), LL.M (Vienna)

Saad-ur-Rehman LL.B (London), LL.M (Manchester)

Abid Rizvi BA-LL.B (LUMS), LL.M (U.Penn)

Aleena Zainab Alavi LL.B (London), LL.M (Warwick)

Zainab Mustafa LL.B (London), LL.M (Warwick)

Lahore Division

Ali Sultan J.D. (Virginia)

Amna Warsi LL.M (Punjab)

Ayasha Warsi LL.M (Punjab)

Moghees Uddin Khan Khan LL.B (London), LL.M (Warwick)

Mishael Qureshi LL.B (London), LL.M (Sussex)

Table of Contents

  1. Summary of Recommendations
  2. Chapter One: Terrorism in the Pakistani Context
  3. Chapter Two: Delineating the Boundaries of Terrorism: Difficulties Pertaining to the Scope of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997
  4. Chapter Three: Special Police Powers under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997
  5. Chapter Four: Proscribed Organizations and Preventive Detention
  6. Chapter Five: Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing
  7. Chapter Six: Religiously-Motivated Violence in the Pakistani Context
  8. Chapter Seven: Anti-Terrorism Courts: Powers and Case Management
  9. Chapter Nine: Juvenile Offenders
  10. Chapter Ten: Analysis of the Fifth Schedule to the ATA