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Back to Legal Provisions on Fighting Extremism


Pakistan has principally adopted an antiterrorism legal framework in order to address extremist activity in the country.  Though Pakistan does not have a specific crime of “extremism” within its laws, it does have a series of other connected criminal offenses, primarily crimes against the state or incitement crimes, that form a close proximity to the crime of extremism defined under international conventions and statutes of other countries.  Such provisions can be found in Pakistan’s principal antiterrorism law, the Anti-terrorism Act, 1997, and in Pakistan’s Penal Code.  Pakistan’s antiterrorism law is enforced through specialized antiterrorism courts and a listing system to designate organizations and individuals involved with terrorism.  However, critics have called into question the effectiveness of the system to deal with terrorism.

More recently, however, Pakistan’s legal approach to combating terrorism and extremism has become increasingly militarized, with the establishment of specialized military courts to try suspected terrorists.

Over the years Pakistan has also attempted, with little success, to regulate and reform the madrasa education system.  Besides legal regulations, Pakistan has also attempted to institute programs promoting “antiradicalization” and sectarian harmony in the country.

I.  Forms of ‘Extremist’ Challenges Faced by Pakistan

Pakistan faces a number of extremist challenges from both ethnic and religious groups in the country.  According to Muhammad Amir Rana, Director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), “[e]xtremism is defined in Pakistan in a number of ways, mainly in political, religious and social contexts.  A lack of consensus even on definitions make [sic] it difficult to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon, further complicating efforts aimed at countering extremism.”[1]  According to PIPS researchers Abdul Basit and Mujtaba Rathore, however, “religious extremism is the common prevalent factor in all the visible trends and patterns of radicalization in Pakistan.”[2]

Pakistan faces enormous challenges from extremist groups, particularly sectarian violence and terrorism perpetrated by radical Islamic groups.  Some of the current challenges Pakistan faces in respect to extremism can be traced to the “Islamization” policies of Pakistan’s military leader General Zia-ul-Haq.  According to a 2009 International Crisis Group report,

Radical jihadi groups benefited from state patronage, for the first time, during General Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime in the 1980s.  They were backed for the twin purpose of fighting in the U.S.-supported anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and promoting Sunni orthodoxy at home.  That patronage continued even during the democratic interlude in the 1990s, as the military used its jihadi allies in India-administered Kashmir and in support of the Taliban in Afghanistan.  As radical Sunni groups proliferated and grew stronger, sectarian violence became the primary source of terrorism in Pakistan.[3]

From 2001 to the present, Pakistan has been involved in military operations against tribal militancy in the northern regions of the country, including actions against various entities in Federally Administered Tribal Areas and separatist movements in the province of Baluchistan.  Baluch ethno-nationalists and separatists have been waging a low-level insurgency for many years.[4]  Sectarian and terrorist attacks on the Shia Hazara community has also “compounded the effects” of the “high-intensity conflict” between the separatists and the military.[5]  Deobandi Sunni sectarian groups claim responsibility for most of the attacks against the Hazara Shias.[6]

Moreover, Pakistan’s most populous city, Karachi, has witnessed some of the worst ethnic and sectarian violence in years, involving “sectarian militant groups, terrorist outfits, political parties, and criminal gangs.”[7]  The Pakistan military and other law enforcement agencies are currently involved in operations against militant and criminal elements in the city.[8]  Therefore, some argue that extremist violence in the country is also motivated by ethnic and provincial divisions.  As emphasized by Selig Harrison, Director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy,

[a] single-minded focus [on terrorism] ignores a broader and more fundamental issue that cuts across the struggle between Islamist and secular forces: whether the multi-ethnic Pakistan federation, torn by growing tensions between a dominant Punjabi majority and increasingly disaffected Baluch, Sindhi and Pashtun ethnic minorities, can survive in its present form without basic political and economic reforms.[9]

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II.  System of National Laws Aimed at Fighting Extremism

Historically, Pakistan has principally adopted an “antiterrorism” legal framework in order to address extremist activity and sectarian violence in the country.  In the context of increasing sectarian and political violence in Pakistan, the then Nawaz Sharif government promulgated the Anti-terrorism Act, 1997, establishing Pakistan’s principal antiterrorism regime.[10]  In the last few years Pakistan has passed a number of additional antiterrorism laws, including the National Counterterrorism Authority Act,[11] the Investigation for Fair Trial Act,[12] the Protection of Pakistan Act of 2014, and several amendments to the Anti-terrorism Act of 1997.[13]

In early July 2013, the Nawaz Sharif government unveiled a draft counterterrorism policy, which generally adopted the same strategy as the previous government to address militancy through five elements: dismantle, contain, prevent, educate, and reintegrate militants.[14]

In late December 2014, following the Peshawar school massacre, the Prime Minister announced a twenty-point National Action Plan to counter terrorism that included proposals to establish military courts to try alleged terrorists, strengthen NACTA, and counter hate speech and extremist material.[15]  More recently, however, Pakistan’s antiterrorism efforts have become increasingly militarized with the passage of the 21st Constitutional Amendment Act[16] and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015,[17] which provide the legal framework for establishing specialized military courts to try civilian terrorist suspects.

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III.  Crime of Extremism and Related Crimes

Pakistan does not have a specific crime of extremism within its laws.  However, it does have a series of other criminal and terrorism-related offenses that form a close proximity to the crime of extremism as defined under international conventions and the statutes of other countries.

As noted above, Pakistan had adopted principally an antiterrorism legal framework in order to address extremist activity and sectarian violence in the country.  Section 6 of Pakistan’s Anti-terrorism Act defines “terrorism” to mean “the use or threat of action” where an action falls within certain stipulated acts and where

[the] use or threat is designed to coerce and intimidate or overawe the Government or the public or a section of the public or community or sect or a foreign government or population or an international organization or create a sense of fear or insecurity in society; or

The use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a religious, sectarian or ethnic cause or intimidating and terrorizing the public, social sectors, media persons, business community or attacking the civilians, including damaging property by ransacking, looting, arson or by any other means, Government officials, installations, security forces or law enforcement agencies.

Provided that nothing herein contained shall apply to a democratic and religious rally or a peaceful demonstration in accordance with law.[18]

Acts of terrorism are stipulated under section 6(2) of the Act and include, inter alia, acts committed by a person who “[i]ncites hatred and contempt on [a] religious, sectarian or ethnic basis to stir up violence or cause internal disturbance,”[19] or is involved in “dissemination, preaching ideas, teachings and beliefs as per [his/her] own interpretation on FM stations or through any other means of communication without explicit approval of the Government or its concerned departments.”[20]

Section 8 of the Anti-terrorism Act, 1997, defines a separate crime that “prohibits acts intended to stir-up sectarian hatred.”  According to the Act,

[a] person

(a)    uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior; or

(b)    displays, publishes or distributes any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting: or words or behavior; or

(c)    distributes or shows or plays a recording or visual images or sounds which are threatening, abusive or insulting: or

(d)    has in his possession written material or a recording or visual images or sounds which are threatening, abusive or insulting with a view to their being displayed or published by himself or another,

Shall be guilty of an offence if:–

i.      he intends thereby to stir up sectarian hatred; or

ii.     having regard to all the circumstances, sectarian hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.[21]

The 1997 Act also criminalizes “printing, publishing, or disseminating any material” that “incites religious, sectarian or ethnic hatred.”[22]  However, to bring certain offenses within the ambit of the Anti-terrorism Act 1997, “it is essential to examine that the offence should have [a] nexus with the object of the Act”[23]—namely, creating terror, panic, or a sense of insecurity among the general public.[24]

Section 11X of the 1997 Act also prohibits the instigation of “civil commotion.”  According to the Act, “[a] person commits an offence if he makes any call for action or shut-down, imposed through the use of threats or force resulting in damage or destruction of property or injury to person, to intimidate citizens and prevent them from carrying out their lawful trade or business activity.”[25]

Pakistan’s Penal Code, under the title of “Offences Against the State,” makes it a punishable offense to “wage war” against the state, and to conspire to do so.[26]  Moreover, the statute also criminalizes conspiracies to “deprive Pakistan of the sovereignty of her territories or of any part thereof,” or to “overawe, by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force, the Federal Government or any Provincial Government.”[27]  Under section 153-A of Pakistan’s Penal Code, “promoting enmity between different groups” is a punishable criminal offense.  The section stipulates that “no subject is entitled to write or say or do anything whereby the feelings of one class of subjects should be inflamed against another class of subjects.”[28]  According to the statute,

(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or incites, or attempts to promote or incite, on grounds of religion, race, place of both [sic], residence[,] language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities; or
(b) commits, or incites any other person to commit, any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities or any group of persons identifiable as such on any ground whatsoever and which disturbs or is likely to disturb public tranquillity; or
(c) organizes, or incites any other person to organize, and exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in any such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in any such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or participates, or incites any other person to participate, in any such activity intending to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in any such activity will use or be trained, to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste of community or any group of persons identifiable as such on any ground whatsoever and any such activity for any reason whatsoever cause or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community[,] shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and with [a] fine.[29]

The above section only applies where the hatred or enmity is created between different classes of people in Pakistan, not individuals within the same class.  Essentially, it is a statutory provision “for the purpose of preserving order and amity between various classes of subjects.”[30]

As indicated above, offences were also recently added to the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, so suspected terrorists “claiming or are known to belong to any terrorist group or organization using the name of religion or a sect”[31] can be tried by newly established military courts.  Offenses include but are not limited to acts that “over-awe the state or any section of the public  or sect or religious minority”[32] or “create terror or insecurity in Pakistan or attempt to  commit any of the said acts within or outside Pakistan.”[33]

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IV.  Enforcement and Effectiveness of Laws

A.  Listing of Proscribed Organizations

Under section 11B of the Anti-terrorism Act, the federal government has the power to proscribe or list an organization if it has “reason to believe that an organization is concerned in terrorism.”  Section 11A stipulates that an organization is “concerned in terrorism” if it

(a) commits[,] [facilitates] or participates in acts of terrorism; (b) prepares for terrorism; (c) promotes or encourages terrorism; (d) supports and assists any organization concerned with terrorism; (e) patronizes and assists in the incitement of hatred and contempt on religious, sectarian or ethnic lines that stir up disorder; (f) fails to expel from its ranks or ostracize those who commit acts of terrorism and presents them as heroic persons; or (g) is otherwise concerned in terrorism.[34]

Such organizations are listed under the First Schedule of the Act.  Measures that may be taken against a proscribed organization include sealing its offices; and impounding all literature, posters, banners, and printed, electronic, digital, or other materials.  The federal government may also ban the publication, printing, or distribution of any press statements, press conference, or public utterances by or on behalf of or in support of a proscribed organization.[35]

Organizations that the federal government believes may be concerned with terrorism can be put under an observation order pursuant to section 11D of the Act, and individuals who are concerned or suspected of being concerned with terrorism can also be listed.[36]

Critics have called into question the effectiveness of Pakistan’s terrorist listing system. Some fault the lack of political will[37] and institutional capacity[38] in dealing with terrorist organizations effectively. One particular problem has been that proscribed organizations rebrand themselves with new names.  In March 2013, Pakistan’s Parliament enacted the Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Act, 2013[39] to allow the government to deal with proscribed organizations that “form a new organization under a different name.”[40]  More recently, however, the head of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) acknowledged the failure of the government to renew actions against proscribed organizations and the lack of a procedure or mechanism to observe the activities of groups that have changed their names.[41] 

Other recent statements are seen by some as demonstrating a lack of political will to effectively deal with militant organizations.  A July 8, 2015, news article reported that the Minister for States and Frontier Regions said that there was no evidence that Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), which is regarded as the political or charitable wing of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), was involved in terrorist activity.  Instead, he reportedly said that the group was “under observation in terms of Section 11-D of the Anti-Terrorism Act since Nov. 15, 2003 and the provinces had been asked to keep a watch on its activities.”[42]

On February 11, 2015, the Interior Minister of Pakistan announced efforts to reconcile the “national list” of proscribed organizations with those listed by the United Nations as being part of Al-Qaida, the Taliban, or associated groups.[43]

B.  Prosecution and Trials of Suspected Terrorists

Under the Anti-terrorism Act, Pakistan has also established special, parallel antiterrorism courts known as ATCs.  The purpose of the ATCs is to provide speedy trials for “heinous offences.”[44]  These Courts have jurisdiction over crimes stipulated under the Anti-terrorism Act.  Moreover, some offenses that have “no apparent nexus with ‘terrorism’ may also be tried by an Anti- Terrorism Court” if such offenses are included in the Third Schedule of the Anti-terrorism Act.[45]  Courts can be established by the federal or provincial governments.  The ATC judges are appointed by the government and can be headed by a judge of a sessions court, an additional sessions judge, district magistrate, deputy district magistrate, or advocate with ten or more years of experience.[46]  Decisions of the ATCs are appealable to the respective High Court, and the High Court’s decision can then be appealed to the Supreme Court. 

Pointing to a high acquittal rate,[47] critics have questioned the effectiveness of Pakistan’s antiterrorism courts to adequately deal with terrorism.  According to data compiled in 2012 by the provincial government of Punjab, 75% of terrorism suspects arrested in the province over the last two decades were set free by antiterrorism courts.[48]  According to a 2011 State Department report the national figure could be closer to 85%.[49]  A December 2014 Dawn news report stated that the conviction rate in three ATCs operating in Pakistan’s capitol of Islamabad and its sister city, Rawalpindi, “remained low”—of the 205 cases that were heard in the ATCs operating in Rawalpindi “there were convictions in less than ten,” and in Islamabad there were no convictions.[50]

Scholars and analysts have pointed to a number of issues that broadly affect Pakistan’s criminal justice system as being responsible for the high acquittal rate in terrorism-related cases.  Critics first highlight what they see as the defective investigative process of Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies. They argue that local police lack sufficient skill and training in collecting evidence and also lack forensic and other modern investigative tools, which has made the investigation process ineffective in Pakistan.  Analysts further state that, since investigating officers are unable to collect adequate evidence, prosecutors cannot build strong enough cases against suspected perpetrators.  They also point out that ATCs are severely understaffed, underfunded, and lack essential resources.  Furthermore, the non-appointment of ATC judges in the past has also been a substantial issue.  Judgeship vacancies lead to huge backlogs of cases.  Policy analyst Huma Yusuf has summarized these issues, observing in 2010 that

[m]any of these problems stem from the fact that the government has not allotted enough funds for the ATC infrastructure, a problem that plagues the Pakistani legal system at large.  Moreover, since they work for a parallel system, state prosecutors employed by ATCs cannot even utilize the scant resources available to the regular session courts.  As a result, ATCs have failed to deliver on their primary mandate—quick justice.[51]

In addition, ATC trials are often delayed due to security concerns.  Some scholars have noted that in cases where suspects are “accused of heinous crimes, in-camera trials are conducted in jail.”[52] Moreover, “[a]rranging logistics for such hearings can lead to prolonged delays.”[53]  According to Huma Yusuf, “security concerns on the part of judges, state prosecutors, and defense counsels regularly lead to the postponement of hearings.”[54]  In addition, Pakistan lacks an adequate witness protection program, and complainants and witnesses often refuse to testify against the accused or turn hostile.  In 2013, the province of Sindh enacted a witness protection law, but as of August 2014 news reports stated that the government had failed to enforce it.[55] 

Concern also exists over the absence of any mechanism to monitor released suspected terrorists who have been acquitted or released on bail.  Some have called for the “need to introduce new and scientific methods to keep strict checks on suspected terrorists even after their release upon bail or through acquittal.”[56]

In an attempt to address some of these concerns, the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011,[57] establishes a legal framework that “provides for detainee transfer to civilian custody for potential prosecution under Pakistan’s criminal law.”[58]  Specialized courts have also been established to try persons who have committed certain scheduled offenses under the recently passed Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014.[59]

More recently, in response to the 2014 Peshawar school massacre, the government of Pakistan has established specialized military courts to try terrorism suspects.  On January 6, 2015, the Parliament of Pakistan passed the 21st Constitutional Amendment Act and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015, “aimed to set up constitutionally protected military courts to try civilian terrorism suspects” for a two-year sunset period.[60]  These Courts were reportedly established to deal with the ineffectiveness of Pakistan’s criminal justice system to deal with terrorism-related cases.  According to the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, they are meant for the “prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan by any terrorist group, armed group, wing and militia or their members using name of religion or a sect.”[61]  However, human rights organizations have questioned the independence and impartiality of what they see as a secret court system and have also raised concerns about the adequacy of fair trial protections that the trial processes provide.[62]

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V.  Madrassas and Education Reform

Madrassas (Islamic schools) were originally registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860 but in 1996 a ban was imposed on such registrations.[63]  This lead to the proliferation of unregulated madrassas in the country. 

The madrassa reform process, which is seen as largely having stalled, was initiated in 2001 by then military leader and President Pervez Musharraf.  In 2001, Musharraf promulgated the Pakistan Madrassa Education (Establishment and Affiliation of Model Dini Madaris) Board Ordinance which “created the Pakistan Madrassah Education Board with the responsibility of establishing new, exemplary dini madaris[64] (religious schools or colleges) and darul uloom (“houses of knowledge” or Islamic seminaries) and overseeing those dini madaris and darul uloom[65] that choose to affiliate with the Board.”[66]  The aim of the model dini madaris were to “demonstrate to existing madaris how to modernize and to train a new generation of liberal-minded ulema [religious scholars].”[67]  A second ordinance was promulgated in June 2002, known as the Dini Madaris (Regulation and Control) Ordinance, which allowed madrassas to register on a voluntary basis to make regular financial declarations to the government; however, fierce opposition from the ulema prevented the latter ordinance from being fully implemented.[68]  To date, only “three model madrassas (teaching modern subjects such as computing alongside religious subjects) have been established—two in Sindh and one in Islamabad.”[69]

In 2005 the Societies Registration Act of 1860[70] was amended to require madrassas to register and to provide audit reports and a list of funding sources.  However, the Ittehad-e-Tanzimat-e-Madaris-e-Dinya (ITMD), an umbrella organization of madrasas, rejected the amendments and refused to cooperate.  According to a report by the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF), “madrasas saw these measures as an attempt to assert stronger government control over the madrasas and as a threat to the independence of the institutions.”[71]  Though the madrassas were willing to provide the government with audit reports, they rejected the government’s requirement of providing “information on individual contributions.”[72] 

Eventually negotiations between the government and the madrassas resulted in another amendment to the Societies Registration Act.  According to the 2007 amendment, madrassas must “sign a declaration stating that they shall not teach or publish any literature that promotes militancy or spreads sectarianism.  They are also required to submit regular financial reports.”[73]  In return, the government must compromise on two demands from the ITMD: “(1) the madrasas that were already registered did not have to comply with the new reporting requirements and (2) financial reports did not have to reveal the madrasas’ funding sources.”[74]  Another issue noted by the ICG is that the audit reports are “prepared by madrasas’ chosen auditors without any independent inspection.”[75]

In April 2014, the Government of Pakistan released a National Internal Security Policy, which noted the role of certain madrassas as a vehicle for spreading extremism.  The policy stated that “troublesome aspects of these madrassas, which impinge on national internal security, include financing from unidentified sources [and the] publication and distribution of hate material.”[76]  The Policy calls for comprehensive madrassa reforms, and envisages, among other things, bringing all 22,000 madrassas in the country under the national education system within one year, and “supporting their administration, financial audit and curriculum accreditation.”[77]

After the 2014 Peshawar school attack, the government, as part of its National Action Plan (NAP), called for steps to reform Pakistan’s madrassa system, with a particular emphasis on registration and control of foreign funding.  However, the ITMD has fiercely resisted these steps and has called on the government to honor previous agreements on madrassa reform.[78]  More recently, however, the ITMD and the government have appeared to come to some agreement to finalize a form for registration, submit audit reports, create a mechanism for monitoring foreign funding with the cooperation of the State Bank of Pakistan, and implement curriculum reform.[79]

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VI.  Government Responses, Legislative Initiatives, and Preventive Measures

A.  National Counter Terrorism Authority

Pakistan has continued to face challenges in regard to interagency cooperation and coordination on counterterrorism.  In the last few years, however, it appears Pakistan has made efforts to “centralize coordination and information sharing.”[80]

In December 2009, the Pakistani government formally established the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), a focal body mandated to coordinate national counterterrorism efforts and strategy.  Because the body initially operated under the Interior Ministry it was criticized for lacking independence and was effectively downgraded to a governmental department rather than “the status of the country’s supposedly premier counterterrorism organization.”[81]  In 2010, the head of NACTA resigned over efforts to try to bring the body under the direct chairmanship of the Prime Minister.  Over the years, the body has largely laid dormant due to this bureaucratic in-fighting over whether NACTA should operate under the Prime Minister or the Interior Ministry.[82]  In 2013 Pakistan’s National Parliament passed the National Counter Terrorism Authority Act (NACTA Act),[83] giving the body formal statutory status and independence.

NACTA is mandated to “unify and orchestrate national counter-terrorism and counter-extremism measures”[84] that are already being implemented by several existing organizations.  It is also tasked with “present[ing] strategic policy options to the government to be considered and implemented by stakeholders,”[85] and is responsible for conducting scientific studies on extremism and terrorism.  The authority is a focal point for the receipt of information and intelligence, and for the dissemination of data to relevant stakeholders in order to “formulate threat assessments with periodical reviews to be presented to the federal government for making adequate and timely efforts to counter terrorism and extremism.”[86]

NACTA is governed by a Board of Governors, headed by the Prime Minister, and also includes a number of federal and provincial ministers including the Interior, Defense, and Finance ministers, and heads of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including Inter-Services Intelligence, the Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, and the Federal Investigation Agency.  The NACTA Act also establishes the position of national coordinator to help execute “board-approved policies and plans.”[87]  The authority is assisted by an executive committee headed by the Interior Minister, and a national coordinator and deputy will execute the board’s policies and the government’s instructions.  NACTA is also responsible for conducting scientific studies on extremism and terrorism.[88]

Despite the legislative efforts to revive NACTA, some critics feel the body still lacks capacity and remains largely inoperative, while others feel that the mandate of the body is far too “ambitious in its aims and scope,”[89] according to news reports.  Nevertheless, under a February 2014 national security policy the government hopes to revive the body.[90]

After the December Peshawar School attack, the federal government announced its plans to activate and strengthen NACTA as part of the National Action Plan (NAP).  However, it appears that the Joint Intelligence Directorate, which is meant to be set up under NACTA, still faces a shortage of funds.[91]  In early June 2015, news sources reported that how the budget will be allocated for NACTA is still in dispute and that the government has failed to establish the Joint Intelligence Directorate.[92]

B.  Sectarian Harmony

The government of Pakistan, under the auspices of the late Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, established local-level committees to promote religious tolerance and sectarian harmony.  In July 2010, the Bhatti also announced the formation of “a National Interfaith Council aimed at promoting brotherhood, harmony and co-existence among various sects and faiths.”[93]

C.  Deradicalization Programs

The Pakistani Army runs a number of deradicalization centers for militants who were detained during the conflict in the Swat Valley.  The goal of these programs is “to ideologically cleanse the inmates of the Taliban’s radical teachings and to give them education and vocational skills so they can be employed once rehabilitated.”[94]  Moreover, “[c]orrective religious education is an essential part of the de-radicalization programs.”[95]  One such initiative is the Mishal, an Army-established deradicalization and rehabilitation facility for adult men who previously joined the Taliban.[96]

In 2009, the Pakistani Army initiated a youth deradicalization program in the Swat Valley through a rehabilitation center known as Sabawoon.  The administration of the program was later transferred to a local nongovernmental organization, Hum Pakistani Foundation, and is funded by UNICEF.  The program includes courses in secondary education and vocational training, and provides psychiatric counseling.  The program also seeks to counter ideological beliefs that lead to extremism and terrorism through “corrective religious instruction.”[97]  As of 2014, the program claimed to have reintegrated over 2,200 youths.[98]

In August 2011, the Defence Committee of the Government Cabinet announced the possibility of a national deradicalization program aimed at combating rising extremism in the country.  According to the Committee, “[i]t was decided in the committee that special attention shall be given to a de-radicalisation programme to motivate youth to engage and isolate them from militancy and terrorism and bring them back to peaceful living.”[99]  Moreover, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, who presided over the meeting, stated,

[w]e need to clearly identify the threat posed by terrorism, including the underlying factors such as ideological, motivational, funding, weapon supply, training and organizational support for terrorist groups and those aiding and abetting the terrorists.[100]

Policy analysts note the need for these programs to be “consolidated into an overall program in order to improve effectiveness, expand the participation, and increase international funding.”[101]
More recently in a national security policy paper, the government of Pakistan tasked NACTA, in consultation with other institutions, to develop a national deradicalization program to counter terrorism and extremism.  The policy states that NACTA “will facilitate a dialogue with all stakeholders to strengthen democratic values of tolerance” and help create “a national narrative on extremism, terrorism, sectarianism and militancy . . . to dispel the wrong perceptions created by the terrorists on ideological basis.”[102]  The program will target persons, like youth, who are particularly vulnerable to extremism and will incorporate methods of rehabilitation and reintegration in society.

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Prepared by Tariq Ahmad
Legal Research Analyst
September 2015

[1] Muhammad Ameer Rana, Abstract, Litterateurs’ Response to Extremism in Pakistan, 3 PIPS Res. J. Conflict & Peace Stud. 112 (Apr.–June 2010),, archived at http://perma. cc/L77J-V3XJ.

[2] Abdul Basit & Mujtaba Muhammmad Rathore, Trends and Patterns of Radicalization in Pakistan, 3 PIPS Res. J. Conflict & Peace Stud. 16 (Apr.–June 2010).

[3] International Crisis Group, Pakistan: The Militant Jihadi Challenge 4 (Asia Report No. 164, Mar. 13, 2009), challenge.pdf, archived at

[4] Bomb Blast at Hotel Kills 11 in Southwest Pakistan, Reuters Africa (Aug. 14, 2011), article/worldNews/idAFTRE77D0ZD20110814, archived at

[5] Saira Yamin & Salma Malik, United States Institute of Peace, Mapping Conflict Trends in Pakistan 3 (2014),, archived at

[6] Id. at 12.

[7] Id. at 3; see also Karachi Targeted Killings, Highest in 15 Years, The Express Tribune (Oct. 29, 2010), http://tribune., archived at

[8] Omar Hamid, Military Intervention Has Reduced Terrorism Risks in Karachi But Allowed Pakistan’s Military to Consolidate Influence Over Policy Direction, IHS Jane’s 360 (Sept. 8, 2015), 54115/military-intervention-has-reduced-terrorism-risks-in-karachi-but-allowed-pakistan-s-military-to-consolidate-influence-over-policy-direction, archived at

[9] Selig S. Harrison, Pakistan: The State of the Union 5 (Special Report, Center for Int’l Policy, Apr. 2009),, archived at

[11] National Counterterrorism Authority Act, No. 19 of 2013, _139.pdf, archived at

[12] Investigation for Fair Trial Act, No. 1 of 2013,, archived at

[13] Protection of Pakistan Act of 2014, No. 10 of 2014, 281.pdf, archived at

[14] Baqir Sajjad Syed, No Radical Shift in New Anti-terror Strategy, Dawn (July 6, 2013), news/1023175, archived at; Irfan Ghauri, Fighting Terror: Draft Policy Aims to Dismantle Terror Networks, The Express Tribune (Aug. 13, 2013),, archived at

[15] Abdul Manan, Fight Against Terrorism: Defining Moment, The Express Tribune (Aug. 13, 2013),, archived at

[16] Constitution (Twenty-first Amendment) Act, No. 1 of 2015, 1420800195_264.pdf, archived at

[17] Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, No. 2 of 2015, 327.pdf, archived at

[18] Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, § 6(1)(b)–(c) (citations in original omitted).

[19] Id. § 6(2)(f).

[20] Id. § 6(2)(p).

[21] Id. § 8.

[22] Id. § 11W.

[23] Ishfaq Ali, Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997: With All Amendments & Up-to-date Case Laws 1 (Al-Noor Law Book House, 2008).

[24] Id. at 2.

[25] Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, § 11X.

[27] Id. § 121-A.

[28] Shaukat Mahmood & Nadeem Shaukat, The Pakistan Penal Code: Exhaustive Commentary Incorporating Case-law of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, India, U.K., etc. 507 (Legal Research Centre, 2008).

[29] Pak. Penal Code, 1860, § 153-A.

[30] Mahmood & Shaukat, supra note 28, at 507.

[31] Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015, § 2,, archived at

[32] Id.

[33] Id.

[34] Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, § 11A.

[35] Id. § 11E(1).

[36] Id. § 11D.

[37] International Crisis Group, Pakistan: Revisiting Counter-terrorism Strategies in Pakistan: Opportunities and Pitfalls 8 (Asia Report No. 271, July 22, 2015), asia/south-asia/pakistan/271-revisiting-counter-terrorism-strategies-in-pakistan-opportunities-and-pitfalls.pdf, archived at     

[38] Ch. 2, Country Reports: South and Central Asia Overview, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, at 198 (Apr. 2014),, archived at

[39] Anti-terrorism (Second Amendment) Act, 2013.

[40] Id. § 4.

[41] Azam Khan, Not in the Short Term: Govt Quietly Dilutes Its Counter-terrorism Plan, The Express Tribune (Mar. 8, 2015),, archived at

[42] Iftikhar A. Khan, No Evidence About JuD’s Links with LeT: Minister, Dawn (July 8, 2015), http://www.dawn. com/news/1193106/no-evidence-about-juds-links-with-let-minister, archived at

[43] Irfan Haider, Pakistan’s Banned Organisations List to Match UN Blacklist, Dawn (Feb. 11, 2015), http://www., archived at  For information on the UN terrorism listing system, see Security Council Committee Pursuant to Resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011) Concerning Al-Qaida and Associated Individuals and Entities, (scroll down to “Listing Criteria” at the bottom), archived at

[44] National Police Bureau Islamabad, Manual on Anti-terrorism Act, 1997, at 7 (Oct. 2008), available at, archived at

[45] Id. at 13.

[46] Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, § 14.

[47] Ch. 2, Country Reports: South and Central Asia Overview, supra note38, at 196.

[48] Asad Kharal, Flawed Anti-terrorism Strategy: 75% Terror Suspects Set Free in Punjab,The Express Tribune (Oct. 17, 2011),, archived at  According to the Express Tribune report, “[s]ince 1990, there have been close to 800 incidents of terrorism in Punjab, of which 475 have actually been prosecuted.  A total of 2,300 suspects were named in those cases, and about 2,200 arrested. Of those arrested, about 1,650 — or 75% — were acquitted by the courts due to a lack of evidence against them.”  Id.   See also Malik Asad, High Ratio of Acquittal: Punjab to Review ATC Prosecutors’ Working, Dawn (Dec. 9, 2012),, archived at

[49] Ch. 2, Country Reports: South and Central Asia Overview, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Country Reports on Terrorism 2011, at 142 (July 2012),, archived at

[50] Conviction Rate Slow in Anti-terrorism Courts in Pindi, Islamabad,Dawn (Dec. 18, 2014), http://www.dawn. com/news/1151583, archived at

[51] Huma Yusuf, Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Courts, CTC Sentinel (Mar. 3, 2010), pakistan%E2%80%99s-anti-terrorism-courts, archived at

[52] Id.

[53] Id.

[54] Id.

[55] Prosecution Suffers as Sindh Fails to Enforce Witness Protection Law, Dawn (Aug. 2, 2014), http://www.dawn. com/news/1122442, archived at

[56] Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Bill 2013, Analysis of § 11E1a(a)-(c), Pildat Legislative Brief, No. 18, at 2 (Feb. 2013), AntiTerrorism2ndAmendmentBill_2013.pdf, archived at

[57] Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011, available at, archived at

[58] Ch. 2, Country Reports: South and Central Asia Overview, supra note38, at 142.

[59] Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014, § 8.

[60] Parliament Passes 21st Constitutional Amendment, Army Act Amendment, Dawn (Jan. 6, 2015), http://www., archived at

[61] Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, preamble.

[62] Saroop Ijaz, Dispatches: Pakistan’s Military Courts Mistake, Human Rights Watch, (Aug. 6, 2015),, archived at; see also International Commission of Jurists, Pakistan: Military Trials for Civilians Questions and Answers (Apr. 2015), 2015/04/Pakistan-Q-and-A-Military-Courts-Advocacy-Analysis-Brief-2015-ENG.pdf, archived at Y454-MMCJ.

[63] Testimony of Samina Ahmed, International Crisis Group, Before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Apr. 19, 2005),, archived at

[64] “Madaris” is the plural form of “madrasa.”  The word can also be transliterated as madrasah, madarasaa, medresa, madrassa, madraza, medrese.

[65] The term can also be transliterated as dar al-`ulum, darul ulum, etc.

[66] Christopher Candland, Pakistan’s Recent Experience in Reforming Islamic Education, in Robert M. Hathaway, Education Reform in Pakistan: Building for the Future 155 (2005), Candland/MadarisReform.pdf, archived at

[67] Id.

[68] Id.

[69] Humaira Israr, Curbing Militancy: Regulating Pakistan’s Madrassas, International Relations and Security Network (ISN) (Sept. 18, 2015),, archived at

[71] NOREF, Kaja Borchgrevink, Pakistan’s Madrasas: Moderation or Militancy? The Madrasa Debate and the Reform Process 9 (June 2011), application/d6f77e0632a20fcf1ae1ad65041acdc7.pdf, archived at

[72] Id.

[73] Kaja Borchgrevink, Taking Stock: Madrasa Reform in Pakistan, NOREF Policy Brief No. 4 at 5 (July 2011),, archived at

[74] Id.

[75] International Crisis Group, Pakistan: Karachi’s Madrasas And Violent Extremism 19 (Asia Report No. 130, Mar. 29, 2007), s_madrasas_and_violent_extremism.ashx, archived at

[76] Asad Hashim, Pakistan Mulls Tighter Controls on Madrassas, Al–Jazeera (Apr. 21, 2014),, archived at

[77] Id.

[78] Imran Mukhtar, Deadlock Persists on Madrassa Reforms, The Nation (Feb. 22, 2015), national/22-Feb-2015/deadlock-persists-on-madrassa-reforms, archived at;‘Stop Harassing Clerics, Identify Those Involved in Terrorist Activities, The Express Tribune (Mar. 2, 2015),, archived at; Noor Aftab, ITMD Accuses Government of Launching Crackdown on Madrassas, The News (Mar. 6, 2015),, archived at (click “Uploaded page”). 

[79] Mian Abrar, With Army Chief on Table, PM Brings Clergy on Board, Pakistan Today (Sept. 8, 2015),, archived at (click “Uploaded page”); Madrassas Agree on Funds Through Banks, The Nation (Sept. 8, 2015),, archived at

[80] Pakistan Lost 1500 Lives to Terrorism in 2013: Taking Counterterror Steps: US Report, (May 1, 2015),, archived at

[81] Zahid Hussain, Nacta: A Non-starter, (Dec. 4, 2012),, archived at

[82] Shuja Nawaz, United States Institute of Peace, Who Controls Pakistan’s  Security Forces? (Special Report 5, Dec. 2011),, archived at

[83] National Counter Terrorism Authority Act, No. 19 of 2013, 70_139.pdf, archived at

[84] Raja Asghar, Anti-terror Law Adopted to Mark Women’s Day, Dawn (Mar. 9, 2013), news/791289/anti-terror-law-adopted-to-mark-womens-day, archived at

[85] Pakistan Parliament Passes Counter-terrorism Authority Bill, The Economic Times (Mar. 9, 2013),, archived at

[86] Id.

[87] Counter-terrorism Authority Bill Moved in National Assembly, Dawn (Feb. 1, 2013), news/782699/counter-terrorism-authority-bill-moved-in-national-assembly, archived at

[88] Pakistan Parliament Passes Counter-terrorism Authority Bill, supra note 85.

[89] Owais Arshad, Pakistan’s New National Security Policy, Muftah (Mar. 9, 2014),, archived at

[90] Id.

[91] Imran Mukhtar, Joint Intelligence Directorate Still a Dream, The Nation (Mar. 18, 2015), pk/national/18-Mar-2015/joint-intelligence-directorate-still-a-dream, archived at  

[92] Azam Khan, Billions for Counter-terrorism, Nothing for Nacta, The Express Tribune (June 7, 2015),, archived at

[93] Bhatti Announces Setting up of National Interfaith Council,Associated Press of Pakistan (July 12, 2010),, archived at

[94] Shehzad H. Qazi, De-radicalizing the Pakistani Taliban, HuffPost Religion (Oct. 4, 2011, 5:12 AM),, archived at

[95] Id.

[96] Id.

[97] United Institute of Peace, The Challenges of Countering Radicalization in Pakistan (May 9, 2012),, archived at 3MB7-PR8F.

[98] Dr. Fawad Kaiser, Swat Deradicalisation Project — I, The Daily Times (Jan. 20, 2014), http://www.dailytimes., archived at

[99] Baqir Sajjad Syed, ‘De-Radicalisation’ Plan Under Study, Dawn (Aug. 18, 2011), 2011/08/18/de-radicalisation-plan-under-study.html, archived at

[100] Id.

[101] International Centre For Political Violence and Terrorism Research, 1st Strategic Workshop On Rehabilitation and De-radicalization of Militants and Extremists: Report on a Workshop Organised by the FATA Secretariat Capacity Building Project, May 18–19, 2010, p. 29,, archived at

[102] Nacta to Develop Deradicalisation Programme, The Nation (Apr. 7, 2014), islamabad/07-Apr-2014/nacta-to-develop-deradicalisation-programme, archived at; Internal Security Policy Aims for Deradicalisation in Pakistan, The Hindu(Mar. 2, 2014), http://www.thehindu. com/news/international/south-asia/internal-security-policy-aims-for-deradicalisation-in-pakistan/article5743530. ecev, archived at

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020