Fair Trial Bill – A Legal Frame Work for Security Forces’s Fight Against Terror
By: Bassam Javed
For over last two decades the fabric of Pakistani society has spiraled down fast in its ethos. First it was Russian invasion of Afghanistan that forced millions of Afghans to take refuge in Pakistan fatally impacting on its economy and culture. Then there were Americans who jumped in the Afghan arena and pumped in sacks of dollars to form, train and equip freedom fighters (Mujahedeen) with lethal weaponry to fight the Russians. American aim was then to humiliate Russians to avenge their own humiliating defeat in Vietnam. In the process, volunteers from Afghanistan and the surrounding countries were recruited to fight Russians. Once the US mission was over, they conveniently ditched their Afghan Mujahedeen that not only affected Afghanistan and Pakistan but also the region. Sequel to the terrorist attack on ‘World Trade Center’ in New York in 2001, the Americans again came in Afghanistan to take revenge from the very group of volunteers (Afghan Mujahedeen) that they had created to fight the Russians. These very Mujahedeen who laid their lives for United States in its endeavor against Russians now became Taliban, an enemy in American eyes. This second time US military adventure in Afghanistan was titled as ‘War against Al-Qaeda’, against the alleged masterminds of the New York attack that the Americans thought were present in Afghanistan and its border areas. The insurgency so developed overtime against American presence in Afghanistan was then conveniently pushed over into Pakistan by US General David Patreaus with the result that the Taliban seeped deeper into Pakistani society impacting on the law and order situation in the country.
Countering the terrorism and extremism unleashed by Taliban has assumed a phenomenon of war which if not fought ruthlessly, may decapacitate the country. Fore front in this war are our security forces that continue to fight the Taliban and terrorists. The Taliban have changed their militant tactics too. They now send suicide attackers after high value human targets. They have also chosen to attack national security apparatus and other strategic targets in a well planned manner like attacks on PAF Base Kamra wherein terrorists managed to enter Base premises and damage its assets. There are indications that Taliban funding sources are also drying out for which they are abducting important personalities for ransom to sustain their operations.
It appears that we as a nation are becoming oblivious to the terror activities in our surroundings. Their acts under an ill-founded ideology are slowly poisoning our polity and drastically impacting on our national economy too. We tend to remain unwary of the great sacrifices being rendered by the security forces in the national war on terror. Their laudable services and sacrifices are often being disregarded by various institutions as if they were not a party in war on terror. The terrorists and arsonists are apprehended in huge numbers by our security forces but they get released by a court of law for insufficient evidences to convict them. Some of the very same terrorists after having been released by the courts return to committing their heinous activities. The security forces personnel risk their lives when they apprehend terrorists however, their subsequent release by the courts for lack of evidence of their terrorist activities cast some demoralizing affects on their zeal with which they carry out their duties. As such, their actions needed some constitutional cover confirming to the need of convicting terrorists in a court of law through enactment of stricter laws by the government.
Our law makers realizing the detrimental affects on our security forces failing in their counter terrorism efforts, finally enacted ‘Investigation for Fair Trial Bill – 2012’. The historic passage of the Bill is a great leap forward in our drive to oust terror from our lives. There would be many hick-ups in its implementation since it tantamount to bring a sea change in our justice system with regard to terrorism and extremism. For Pakistan it is just the beginning. Many countries have already in place anti terrorism laws and they implement them with full force to deter terrorism. Their laws have really delivered in stemming the menace of terrorism in their respective countries. The recently enacted ‘Fair Trial Bill -2012’ by Pakistan provides legal cover to the concerned agencies to tap telephone calls and monitor electronic mails to present them as evidences when a suspect is produced and tried in a court of law. The unanimous passage of the Bill by Parliament is an indication of Pakistan’s resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
In a democratic set-up, there are always dissenting voices on matters that affect the state policies. Similarly, we have different opinions in our polity on the enactment of ‘Fair Trial Bill – 2012’ as well. Whereas, the majority of Pakistanis think that the Bill was a necessity there are those who opine otherwise. The critics castigate the Bill as a tool to strengthen the security forces to misuse their powers. The fact is otherwise. The Bill is meant to strengthen security forces actions not only to make them proactive in their efforts to fight the terrorists but also to provide them with legal cover in apprehending terrorists and other suspects that are planning to carry out terrorists activities. through electronic surveillance means. However, it is mandatory that related electronic surveillance infrastructure and modalities be placed on ground as soon as possible to get rid of legal hitches while carrying out accountability of terrorists.
‘Fair Trial Bill – 2012’, even with its pitfalls that may affect privacy of a citizen, is a good omen. It will mature overtime and make our intelligence tools more effective in gathering evidence to ultimately convict a terrorist in a court of law. The ‘Bill’ would, therefore, help improve our societal values once the scourge of terrorism is eradicated through judicial accountability of terrorists.