Convicting terrorists

In recent years, Pakistan has seen an increase in the number of terrorist attacks on its soil. The terrorists have not only targeted the security forces, politicians and their families but civilians have not been spared either. Sacred places like mosques and shrines have also been hit widely, yet we have not seen a single terrorist being convicted for these gruesome attacks. There are many reasons for this, the foremost being the lacunae in our judicial system.

Pakistan’s security agencies, particularly the police, lack basic investigative skills and with little or no knowledge of forensics, most of the evidence in a terrorist attack is lost or wasted. Even when the police catch the terror suspects, the legal system sets them free. When the prosecution fails to provide enough evidence to indict the terrorists, the courts are left with no choice but to let the terrorists go. The judges do have the power not to grant bail to terror suspects, but we have not seen this judicial discretion being exercised. There are other reasons such as intimidation of lawyers, judges and witnesses by the terrorists’ cohorts during a trial. Though the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2010, when passed by parliament, will address most of these issues, there is an urgent need to give proper forensic training to our law enforcement agencies. We also need state of the art forensic laboratories in Pakistan. The government must start a witness protection programme as well so that no one is able to hurt those who have the guts to come forward and speak out against the terrorists. Lawyers and judges involved in these trials should also be given adequate security. These are some of the things that must be taken care of as soon as possible if we are to be successful in our fight against terrorism.

On another note, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that banned militant outfits “are not allowed to visit flood-hit areas”. We would like to remind Mr Malik that members of the banned outfits are already providing relief in some flood-hit areas and since the government has not been able to reach those areas as yet, how will it stop them from operating there? The government should get to these areas, catch them and put them away for good as soon as possible. The whole fight against terrorism can go to waste if these banned outfits are not stopped from operating on our soil without fear or obstacle.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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