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Pakistan: Amendments to Anti-Terrorism Laws

(Apr. 16, 2013) In advance of the dissolution of Pakistan’s Parliament at the end of its five-year term, the Parliament recently passed a series of amendments to and new laws for its existing anti-terrorism legal framework.

Anti-Terrorism Financing

On March 5, 2013, the Senate of Pakistan passed the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2013, to help bolster and empower government agencies’ ability to crack down on terrorism financing. (Senate Passes Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill, DAWN.COM (Mar. 5, 2013).)

One of the objectives of the Bill is to “strengthen the provision concerning the offences of terrorism financing and to provide more effective enforcement measures against such offences.” (The Anti- Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2012, PILDAT LEGISLATIVE BRIEF, No. 17, at 1 (Nov. 2012).) The Bill provides expanded powers to the government to freeze, seize, or detain property or money suspected to be related to financing terrorism. (Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act, No. 13 of2013, § 8, THE GAZETTE OF PAKISTAN EXTRAORDINARY (Mar. 19, 2013), available at Senate of Pakistan website.) The Bill also amends the definition of terrorism under section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, by including as part of it threats and acts of terrorism against a”foreign government or population or an international organization.” (Id.§ 3(a).)

Expansion of Terrorism Definition

Another bill, the Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Bill 2013, passed in the Senate on March 15, 2013, further expands the definition of terrorism under section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Under the amended definition, “the threat of terrorism” now includes”intimidating and terrorizing the public, social sectors, business community, security forces, Government installations, officials and law enforcement agencies.” (Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Bill 2013, PILDAT LEGISLATIVE BRIEF, No. 18, at 2 (Feb. 2013).)

The bill also provides for preventative or pre-charge detention of 90 days for persons reasonably suspected of being involved with terrorism. The detention cannot be challenged in any court, and the detainee cannot ask “for release on bail or file a petition for habeas corpus in any court of law.” The detainee “would be produced in-camera before the court within 24 hours of detention.” (Id.)

New Counter-Terrorism Authority

On March 13, 2013, the Senate of Pakistan also passed the National Counter-Terrorism Authority Bill, which provides for the establishment of a national authority to devise counter-terrorism strategy and to help integrate and coordinate counter-terrorism efforts among various agencies. (Ijaz Kakakhel & Tanveer Ahmed, Parliament Moves to Nail Terrorists, DAILY TIMES (Mar. 14, 2013).) The National Counter-Terrorism Authority is governed by a Board of Governors, headed by the Prime Minister, and also includes a number of federal and provincial ministers and heads of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The bill also establishes the position of National Coordinator to help execute “board-approved policies and plans.” (Counter-Terrorism Authority Bill Moved in National Assembly, DAWN.COM (Feb. 1, 2013); A Bill to Establish National Counter-Terrorism Authority in Pakistan, National Assembly website (last visited Apr. 10, 2013).)

Given that the bills have passed both houses of Parliament, they only need to be signed by the President of Pakistan in order to become law.