Senate of Pakistan

Legal framework needs rectification: says Mushahid

Legal framework needs rectification: says Mushahid
November 16, 2012

At a roundtable discussion on Fair Trial Bill and its Necessity in Pakistan, organized by Research Society of International Law, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said the government has failed to make National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) an independent organization, aided with latest tools. He was of the view that appropriate legislation is required before all action and intelligence agencies cannot maintain law and order, this is the job of police and law enforcement agencies and they must be equipped with contemporary gear to achieve this objective. He held that the criminal justice system has collapsed in its ability to fight the grave challenges. Mushahid Hussain asserted that the legal framework must be revised as soon as possible and provincial governments must be taken on board in a larger counter terrorism strategy. While referring to the recent upsurge of violence in Karachi, he said sectarian violence is on the rise and 8500 persons were arrested for having illegal arms, but none was tried or convicted, and all eventually went off scot-free. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed agreeing with other participants held that the primary concern is that we are still uncertain and confused whether we are in a state of war. As a consequence of this, the state has not been able to come up with an effective counter terrorism strategy.

RSIL Research Associate Mr Owais Anwar explained the context and necessity for such legislation and briefed the participants on steps other countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia and USA had already taken for the advancement of their anti-terrorism law.

RSIL President Mr Ahmer Bilal Soofi took the participants through the contents of the draft of the Fair Trial Bill. In this regard, the participants were provided extracts of similar legislation enacted by the UK, USA, and several Indian States, where similar surveillance and interception laws were already operational and convictions had been handed down.

The use of intercepted materials had led to reduced reliance on witness testimony in these countries, particularly in the UK and US. Mr Soofi also referred to the recommendations of the International Judicial Conferences held this year in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad which had endorsed improvements in Pakistani Counter-Terrorism laws.

He referred to the addresses of the Chief Justice of Pakistan at the conferences in which the chief justice had stated that all actions, whether in the interest of national security or otherwise, should be done in accordance with the law meaning thereby that no agency or authority had the power to take any action which was not authorized by legislation and if there was a need to take any action in the interest of national security then appropriate law had to be formulated to legalize the powers of law enforcement agencies.

It was recognized that the said law would be able to collect admissible evidence through electronic means and would hopefully reliance on witnesses who were often threatened.

With regard to the concern for misuse of the law, the participants held that the training of police officers or intelligence agencies staff was enormously vital so that they were trained to accord inviolability to the intercepted material and conserve it properly to void any misuse.

The participants agreed that such legislation should have been made much earlier since it would pinpoint terrorist suspects while also going a long way towards regulating the functions of intelligence agencies. The participants thought that those who administered this law should be trained in Pakistan’s obligations under the ICCPR where Pakistan was to guard the privacy of its citizens. Such training would enable those enforcing these laws to remain mindful of privacy concerns.

The participants were also of the view that certain areas of upgrading in the draft law could be addressed when detailed rules under the law were laid out. Through these rules, the law could then be applied at first selectively or through one or two agencies and then be steadily extended and utilized by other bodies too.

Sentor Mushahid Hussain who is also the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production told the participants that his committee was setting a precedent by holding public hearings on a regular basis. He also said that the parliament needs to take charge and be proactive.

Mr Ejaz Haider, Mr Raza Rumi, AVM (r) Shahzad Chaudhry, Mr Ahmed Jawad, journalists, and members of the public participated in the discussion. The participants debated various aspects of the Bill and broadly endorsed its aim. Legal experts from the US and UK were also present and spoke on the necessity of such legislation to curtail the wave of terrorism and extremism in Pakistan.

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