Anti-terror law full of ‘ambiguities’, says CJP Khosa


–SC larger bench reserves verdict in case pertaining to definition of ‘terrorism’ and applicability of ATA

–CJP says bench will define what constitutes as terrorism 


ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa on Tuesday said that the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) was full of “ambiguities”, as a seven-member larger bench on Tuesday reserved its verdict in a case pertaining to the definition of ‘terrorism’ and the types of cases that should be tried under the anti-terrorism law.

The larger bench was hearing reviews petitions in the Sibtain Vs the State and Fazal Bashir Vs the State cases.

Heading the seven-judge bench, CJP Khosa regretted that “routine criminal cases are also tried in anti-terrorism courts”.

“Every grave crime is not an act of terrorism,” he said, adding that “God willing, we will define what constitutes as terrorism”.

Khosa noted that “planned proliferation of insecurity is [defined as] terrorism”, but also observed that “all crimes result in extension of insecurity”. He reasoned that if a crime is committed with the intention of spreading insecurity, then maybe that ought to be classified as terrorism.

At this point, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said that the intention of a perpetrator cannot be ascertained just by the extent of the damage they inflict.

Chief Justice Khosa noted that neither the United Nations nor United States had ever been able to give a singular definition of terrorism. He added that cases seem to be “referred to anti-terrorism and military courts whenever there is a need to temporarily calm media uproar or to tackle a crisis”.

As the verdict was reserved, the chief justice vowed that the court would ascertain at a universal definition of terrorism.

The application of ATA clauses had come under similar scrutiny last year when the Supreme Court had set aside the capital punishment awarded by an an anti-terrorism court to Asma Nawab and two others. The verdict in the 20-year-old case pertaining to the killing of the accused’s parents and brother was eventually overturned, mainly due to legal technicalities.