The logic (or lack thereof) behind the Protection of Pakistan Act 2014

This law merely provides legal cover to all the havoc our law enforcement agencies have been wreaking since inception.

Ali Abdul Rehman July 13, 2014
The Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014 has been honoured with the presidential seal and is now officially the Protection of Pakistan Act 2014. We are told it is ‘an extraordinary law for an extraordinary situation’, having the validation of a strong legislature.

That the act is a repressive law, impinging upon the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution is a settled matter, discussion whereof is now futile and can be equated with banging ones head against a wall.

What we should discuss, however, is the thinking or logic which led our lawmakers providing legal sanction to such flagitious police practices as detention on mere suspicion and shooting on sight, amongst numerous others.

Frankly, I do not really care as to how the bill violates my fundamental rights simply because if fate ever put me at the mercy of a Basic Pay Scale (BPS-15) law enforcer’s whim, the bill’s provisions were to be the last thing he would put his mind to before pulling the trigger; not least because his lot has been pulling it with impunity since long. In fact, this law merely provides legal cover to all the havoc that our law enforcement agencies have been wreaking since their inception, at times under the guise of ‘encounters’, at others in the name of ‘disappearances’.

The fact that the opposition was successful in negotiating a mitigated version of the law is, at best, an illusion, not least because it too is the product of the same flawed thinking that sought to honour us with the original law.

One argument put forward in the bill’s defence is the high rate of acquittals in terrorism cases. This contention, though valid to a massive extent, does not merit and can never merit, passing the burden of proof onto the accused.

The acquittal of certain high profile criminals by anti-terrorist courts for lack of evidence is a glaring exposure of the police’s investigation skills (or lack thereof). The results would not have been any different had the burden been on the defendant to prove lack of involvement in the alleged offence(s), solely due to the complicity or inability, whichever the case may be, of that all-powerful character, standing out in every criminal case, known as the ‘tafteeshi afsar’ (investigation officer). Accoutred with the power to present black as white and vice versa, he is well-known for using his powers efficiently. And this is precisely where the core of the problem lies which no one seems willing to tackle.

Furthermore, instead of paying heed to the dire need of a comprehensive witness protection program, viable in whatever trace of a legal system we are left with, our lawmakers have almost done away with the requirement of witness testimony. All that the police have to do now is to allege an offence; it is the defendant’s job to prove the allegation false.

These instances offer an insight into the unwillingness of authorities in bringing concrete changes to this corrupt-to-the-core system. The bill, too, is little more than an attempt to deal only with the superficial, and that too in the most obnoxious fashion.

Though for the first two years, the law will, in all likelihood, and like many other things ‘sarkari’, receive an extension, followed by another extension and probably few amendments, nature and scope whereof will depend on where we are headed then.

A law which, it seems, finds difficult to defend its own existence has been enforced to protect Pakistan from the existential threat it faces today. What a stark irony!
Ali Abdul Rehman The author is a lawyer who recently cleared his Civil Services exam. He tweets @MAliAbdulRehman (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Muhammad Saim | 9 years ago | Reply You can draft all the best laws or best of all the laws, that's no big deal. Deal is in implementing any law. There is no dearth of (good) laws in legal books of Pakistan, yet there is total lawlessness in every sphere of life. The reason is simple, we do not want to follow any law in our lives, we can not wait for 15 seconds on a red light, we are such miserable society, we will not follow more complex and more demanding laws. And on the other side of table, law enforcement agencies have agendas 180 degrees opposite to the state agenda (in books). 90% of law enforcement agencies are busy in "protocol" duties and remaining 10% are incompetent enough not even suitable for protocol duties let alone maintain law & order. PPO is bound to see the same fate as other virtually "dead" ordinances and clauses of law, there will be no one to implement the law. The hidden (its too obvious to say so) of any government in bringing such new laws & ordinances is manifolds, first they put the blame of total failure of law & order on "inadequate" or "flawed" existing laws (actually utter in competence of government as whole), second they get a lease of life of around 1 - 2 years while they draft new laws and ask the nation to "wait" for the "good" news, and thirdly they ask the poor (equally (ir)responsible) nation to wait for another 1 - 2 years to see the new law bearing fruits of new law until then the present government would complete its 5 years tenure and the cycle will be repeated by the incumbent government, while that nation keeps suffering (out of its own sins). PPO or no PPO there will be not much difference on the streets.
salman | 9 years ago We do not want to follow any law in our lives? We can not wait for 15 seconds on a red light? Clearly you do not reside in Pakistan or at the very least, you have never driven a car in Karachi. I tried to follow traffic law and guess what? It got me into an accident. I stopped my car at a red light and a guy rammed into me claiming it was my fault for stopping at a signal at an empty road. I also had the learner 'L' sticker on my car too but the moron did not see that either. Keep a distance or at least 1 meter between you and the car in front? Someone will try and fit his bike in there. People are not even aware of that rule. Some people indicate right and then turn left! Driving here is like a street race.
A J Khan | 9 years ago | Reply Protection of Pakistan bill should not be extended to Police. It should rather be extended to Rangers, FC & Army when called in support of civil Administration & anti terrorist operations. Loading a corrupt organization like Police will create more difficulties for general public & end up in scrapping the bill, devoiding FC/Rangers/Army of legal cover.
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ