That Hafiz Sayeed would walk a free man was always expected. After all, it is Pakistan and the country views him as a freedom fighter more or less. To expect any other development would have been wrong on our part. As a country, Pakistan neither respects any international law nor its own fully.
The law’s loose definition of terrorism has resulted in an overly broad application of the ATA to a host of criminal cases, clogging up the special court system the ATA set-up. At the same time, resources and training to implement the ATA provisions are limited. While ATA language and definitions need fixes, deeper challenges to the law relate to implementing and applying its existing provisions in practice.
These include a failure to enforce restrictions on the activity of banned terrorist organisations; lack of comprehensive provisions to secure witnesses, police officers, prosecutors and courts hearing terrorism cases, and the need for greater intelligence coordination between Pakistan’s civilian, military, and police agencies. ATA lays down provisions to restrict the movements and activities of those found to be supporting or sympathising with terrorists.
For instance, Section 11E (1A) of the Act directs that “if the office bearers, activists or the members or the associates of such organizations are found continuing the activities of the proscribed organization, in addition to any other action under this Act or any other law for the time being in force to which they may be liable,” they are to be barred from international travel, face restrictions on banking transactions, and are subject to a revocation of any arms licences they may hold. This provision is not being implemented at all; no national database of such persons exists with the police or any other agency, and available lists are not shared with the relevant agencies.
Lack of awareness of this provision in the police and other relevant agencies is the main reason for ATA’s non-enforcement. It is generally agreed that funds are the lifeblood of any terrorist organisation. If denied the same – to buy weapons or support salaries for members and their network –the organisation’s capability to strike is considerably degraded.
Sections 11H to 11K of the ATA deal with terrorist financing, covering those who solicit, receive, or provide funds to terrorist organisations, including cases where the participants had “reasonable cause to suspect” that their activities might be used for terrorist purposes. Punishments for these violations are specified for a minimum of five years and a maximum of ten. Hence, it is not the courts of Pakistan that are to be blamed but the government and the Army. When the State loves its non-State actors, no terrorist would be brought to justice.