THE Fourth Schedule is a piece of legislation that no one in authority seems to quite know what to do with. That certainly ought not to be the case in a country engaged in an extended, multi-tiered battle against extremism. According to Section 11EE of the ATA, the Fourth Schedule is to include “any person who is an activist, office-bearer or an associate of an organisation kept under observation … or proscribed … or … affiliated with any group or organisation suspected to be involved in terrorism or sectarianism”. To prevent them from propagating their noxious views, the law — with certain caveats — does not allow these individuals to visit institutions of learning, training or residence where persons under 21 years of age are found. Similarly, public places such as restaurants, television and radio stations or airports are out of bounds for them. They are also forbidden from taking part in public meetings or processions, or from being present at an enclosed location in connection with any public event.
That is exactly what is needed to address the problem of extremist narratives continuing to be perpetuated because the leaders of many ultra-right groups that have been banned remain in contact with the public. However, by applying this law in fits and starts, the government defeats its objectives. For example, in the wake of the Lahore park bombing in March, it decided to arrest all 2,000-plus individuals included in the Fourth Schedule, but that did not materialise. Recently, the Lahore High Court allowed ASWJ chief Ahmed Ludhianvi, also listed in the Fourth Schedule, to contest the Jhang by-election — although he subsequently decided to withdraw in favour of another candidate. While the court may have had its reasons for its decision, the wide-ranging restrictions listed under the Fourth Schedule should preclude anyone included in it from doing so. The lackadaisical manner in which the list is maintained is also a matter of concern. As reported some months ago, of some 8,000 names on a consolidated list provided to Nacta by the provinces, GB, AJK and Islamabad, 20pc may be deceased and 5pc have either left the country or are too old and infirm to pose any threat. Such a cavalier attitude makes the state appear weak, that too at a time when it is doubly important that it should be asserting its authority.
Published in Dawn December 4th, 2016