In order to develop a better understanding of terrorism in Pakistan, it is important to explore the different types of terrorism that exist in the country. The types are as follows:

  • Ideological Terrorism

Anarchist terrorism, religious terrorism, nationalist/separatist terrorism, and single-issue extremism fall under the category of ideological terrorism. 

  • Physical Terrorism

Physical terrorism involves violence that requires contact. Such terrorist activities are mostly carried out in limited areas of physical space such as Mosques, Imambargahs and specific regions of one dominating community such as blasts in Shia populated areas and Christian populated areas in Pakistan. A significant amount of physical terrorism is conducted through suicide bombings in Pakistan, whereby an individual detonates a bomb inside or near a target and kills himself in the process. 

  • Cyber Terrorism

Cyber terrorism, as the name suggests, is defined as the link-up of terrorism and cyberspace. It is generally understood to mean unlawful attacks or threats of attack against computers, networks and the information stored in them. Provided that these attacks are done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people to promote their political or social objectives.

Due to the prevailing security situation in Pakistan, and after the amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan, in 2015 and 2016, there were three Special Courts dealing with acts which could be labelled as ‘terrorism’. These included the Anti-Terrorism Courts under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, the Military Courts under the Pakistan Army Act 1952, and the Protection of Pakistan Act 2014’s Special Courts. The Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014 has since then lapsed.

The ATA criminalizes various acts as terrorism. It defines terrorism in two ways. First, it provides a general definition of terrorism in which actus reus elements and mens rea elements combine to form an offence. Secondly, it criminalizes specific offences which facilitate or promote terrorism, for e.g.  involvement in terrorist organizations, terrorism financing, money laundering, glorification of terrorist and religious incitement. Furthermore, the ATA grants extraordinary powers to law enforcement agencies which will also be discussed in this section, along with the procedural aspects of the Act including provisions for bail and remand. 

 TerrorismCriminal Law
LegislationAnti-Terrorism Act 1997

Fair Trial Act 2010

Qanoon e Shahadat Order

Pakistan Penal Code

Criminal Procedure Code

Qanoon e Shahadat Order

JurisdictionAnti-Terrorism CourtCriminal Court/Magistrate

Sessions Court

AppealHigh CourtAppellate Court

High Court

ArrestWithout warrant permitted upon reasonable suspicion of terrorist activityWarrant needed for non-cognizable offences

Without warrant permitted for cognizable offences

RemandMinimum remand lasts from 15 to 30 days and may be extended to a maximum of 90 daysPerson must be presented before the magistrate within 24 hours of arrest, who MAY extend the remand to a maximum of 15 days
BailTo be granted by the ATC, High Court or Supreme CourtTo be granted by a magistrate or by any court that may act as a court of appeal
Duration of Trial7 days limitNo prescribed limit
Admissibility of ConfessionsConditional Admissibility of confessions made to policeAdmissible only if confession made in the presence of the magistrate
Elements to be proved in CourtActus Reus is given more weight in terrorism cases

Mens Rea: Proving either Design or Purpose is sufficient for conviction

Mens Rea and Actus Reus BOTH must be proved for a criminal conviction

Mens Rea; BOTH Design and Purpose must be proven