ISLAMABAD: The National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) has directed the governments of all four provinces, Gilgit Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Islamabad to establish a consolidated online database of all the individuals listed under the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997.
“I have told my department to establish this online system within 15 days – it will be similar to the database already used by the Punjab government to track all persons listed in the Fourth Schedule,” Nacta National Coordinator Ihsan Ghani told Dawn.
No consolidated list of individuals listed under the Fourth schedule currently exists at the national level; each province maintains its own list and does not coordinate or share information with others.
Mr Ghani claims that this new system will improve the performance of police departments across the country and also help keep the list updated.
“There is currently no system to track or confirm the travel records and other activities of these individuals,” he said, adding; “We want to ensure that all relevant departments play their role in implementing the provisions of the ATA.”
Unclear review mechanisms, lack of coordination between provinces have made list ‘irrational document’
Although a consolidated list is yet to be finalised, the lists provided to NACTA by the provinces, GB, AJK and Islamabad shows that there are around 8,000 people named under the Fourth Schedule of ATA 1997.
However, these lists are by no means final. A senior interior ministry official said the lists had serious flaws and at least 20 to 25pc of the names were incorrect.
“We estimate that around 20pc of those on the list are supposedly dead, while some 5pc of names are individuals who have either left the country or are old and sick, unable to move around, let alone travel,” the official added.
Regarding the names placed under the Fourth Schedule, officials said that most of these names were entered by police, including the Special Branch, and were consolidated at the office of the superintendent of police. These names are then forwarded to the Home Department of each province.
There are strict conditions for placing someone on the Fourth Schedule of ATA; such individuals are described as “Proscribed persons under the law”.
Section 11EE of ATA 1997 describes the restrictions on such persons in detail.
Among other things, those placed in the Fourth Schedule cannot – without the written permission of the officer in charge of the relevant police station – visit schools, colleges and other institutions where persons under 21 years of age or women are taught, trained or housed permanently or temporarily.
Such individuals also cannot visit theatres, cinemas, fairs, amusement parks, hotels, clubs, restaurants, tea shops as well as resorts, airports, railway stations, bus stands, telephone exchanges, television stations, radio stations and other similar public places.
They cannot be at the scene of any public meeting or procession, or even in an enclosed location in connection with any public event, festival or other celebration.
The law provides that police or any other government agency can check and probe the assets of such persons or their immediate family members – including parents, wives and children –to ascertain whether their assets and sources of income are legitimate and are being spent on lawful objectives.
Mr Ghani also told Dawn that all those concerned have also been asked to rationalise the list and delete names which are not relevant.
“After removing irrelevant and unnecessary names, we want the provinces to take responsibility for the list and strictly implement the law,” he explained. He gave the example of Islamabad-based cleric Sheikh Mohsin to illustrate his point.
“Sheikh Mohsin operates schools and welfare institutions and there are no complaints against him whatsoever, but his name is included in the Fourth Schedule; he was not even aware of this fact since no one informed him,” the Nacta chief said.
Sheikh Mohsin recently came to know that his name was on the list after banks refused to honour cheques of various welfare institutions.
Incidentally, Sheikh Mohsin’s name, along with the names of 2,020 others, were provided by Nacta to the State Bank of Pakistan for freezing of their accounts under section 11(O) of ATA.
Not only did he not know about the inclusion of his on the list, Sheikh Mohsin could also not find out why his name was placed there and by whom.
Talking to Dawn, Sheikh Ishaq – Sheikh Mohsin’s son – said they came to know about the list when banks stopped the transactions of their schools based in earthquake-hit areas.
“He is the chief trustee for most of these institutions and now their cheques are not being cleared; banks have stopped honouring the cheques, and neither the banks nor the ICT administration know how we can rectify this.”
All the Islamabad commissioner told them was to wait out the months of Muharram and Safar.
Similarly, Ahmed Ludhianvi, leader of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), who recently returned from Haj, was amazed to find that he was not authorised to maintain a bank account.
He expressed astonishment over the fact that no department had objected to his Haj application to proceed abroad, but the government had decided he could no longer open or maintain a bank account.
“The authorities come to [Mr Ludhianvi] seeking his help and support to eradicate terrorism and sectarianism from the country, but they will not let him have a bank account,” a senior ASWJ office-bearer told Dawn.
The ASWJ chief has never applied to have his name removed from the list because he says he has never been officially informed that his name was placed on it.
Those who did find out about their inclusion on the list earlier did not find it any easier to deal with the issue.
For example, Allama Amin Shaheedi, a senior leader of the Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) tried to get his name off the list by filing a case in the Islamabad High Court last year, but to no avail.
“My name was placed there some ten years ago and I wanted to clear the records, so I told the court that I am a public figure and if anybody wants to know about my whereabouts, they can find out easily,” he said.
But what he found odder was the fact that the police department declared him a suspicious person in court and claimed that his whereabouts were not clear. “But the same department has also deputed police guards for my security,” he said, incredulously.
Though there are provisions in the law for individuals named under the Fourth Schedule to seek relief, these provisions are vague and explain why the list has continued to grow with the passage of time.
The law says that any aggrieved person “may, within thirty days of such order, file a review application before the federal government stating the grounds on which it is made and the government shall, after hearing the applicant, decide the matter on reasonable grounds within 90 days”.
“A person whose review application has been refused may file an appeal to the high court within 30 days of the refusal of the review application.”
But even the authorities are not clear where such an application can be filed, since the law does not specify a particular forum.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2016