What the Government ought to do?:
The ATO has to be amended and earlier introduced provisions should be discussed in Parliament and become Acts of the Parliament as soon as possible. The government has expressed its desire to tighten existing laws, but actions need to be taken fast and the new law should not be allowed to laspse lack the previous ordinance. The lack of enthusiasm from the legislature is disgraceful and should be condemned.
It is high time that the role of the intelligence agencies be provided a legal cover. The lack of enthusiasm for this emanates from the fact that the agencies fear that a legal documentation surrounding the limitations of their role would be unhelpful as their illegal and out of the norm activities would become questionable under the law. It would set provisions for accountability before the public and the discussion over their role in the legislature would become vocal. Such apprehensions are highly misguided and ill founded in a society that would like to establish the rule of the law. Accountability before the legislature would be welcome as the bad mouthing of their supposedly “political role” could be handled appropriately. Moreover, they could be provided with arresting capabilities under the law (with the 24 hour limit to be produced by a magistrate to ensure respect of the citizen’s right to unfounded extended arrest). Evidence collected by them should become directly admissible in court (provided its admissibility be established under the Evidence Act) and the testimonies of the intelligence officers become admissible as well. Not only will this help in convicting terrorists far more easily, it will go further towards establishing a society where no institution of the state operates outside legal provisions.
Collaboration amongst law enforcement agencies is important. In order to improved the inter agency cooperation, an operational framework needs to established. The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is supposed to become operational very soon and it should be given the foremost task of handling inter agency cooperation. Lack of enthusiasm from the IB and especially the ISI has been cited as a major problem in setting up the NACTA as the agencies are unwilling to leave their “dominant” position as the top most CT bodies. Such childish behaviour aimed at protecting “institutional pride” is highly deplorable and should have no place in a country that needs to tackle terrorism quickly.
The Criminal Procedural Code be amended so as it allows the investigative role of the intelligence agencies precisely, and not in vague terms. The Evidence Act (Qanun e Shahadat Order 1984) needs to be amended and recommendations that have surfaced over the past numerous years (including ones from state bodies like the LJCP) should be incorporated. Technicalities, inadequacy of the law and the wide gaps in the admissibility of evidence before courts should not result in guilty terrorists getting acquitted.
Anti-Terrorism Prosecutors should be provided with increased assistance, both from the law enforcement side and administrative help so they can prepare a tighter and effective case against the alleged terrorists.
Witnessed should be provided state protection and should preferably be shifted from their homes during the prosecution and their identities otherwise be protected vehemently. Many cases involving associates not involved in committing the acts of terrorism but providing institutional support to terrorists are unsuccessful largely due to the absence of witness testimonies. Enhanced protection for witnesses would most definitely result in higher conviction rates.
In the end as Babar Sattar eloquently wrote:-
In our desperation to clasp convictions we must not succumb to the temptation of diluting our standards of justice and removing safety valves. For justice doesn’t demand conviction of the accused, but that of the guilty.