CJP Khosa vows to ascertain a universal 'definition of terrorism'

02 Apr 2019

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Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked that the ATA is full of "ambiguities" and that "routine criminal cases are also tried in anti-terrorism courts". ─ Photo courtesy Supreme Court
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked that the ATA is full of "ambiguities" and that "routine criminal cases are also tried in anti-terrorism courts". ─ Photo courtesy Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict in a case pertaining to what constitutes 'terrorism' and, consequently, what cases should be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

The apex court had formed a seven-member larger bench last month to examine the issue when the matter came under discussion while the court was hearing reviews petitions in the Sibtain Vs the State and Fazal Bashir Vs the State cases.

Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, during the hearing in Islamabad today, remarked that the ATA was full of "ambiguities" and regretted that "routine criminal cases are also tried in anti-terrorism courts".

"Every grave crime is not an act of terrorism," the top judge remarked at one point. "God willing, we will define what constitutes as terrorism."

The chief justice 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.

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

Justice Khosa also noted that neither the United Nations nor the United States had ever been able to give a singular definition of terrorism.

He also said 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.