‘What you do not know could kill you’

Campaign raises awareness on anti-terrorism law

Urooj Sultan July 29, 2016
Activists of the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) speak to the passers by (L), Posters prepared for the campaign to highlight the threat to fundamental rights from abuse of terrorism laws. PHOTO: EXPRESS

LAHORE: Scores of Lahoris were told on Friday they could be unfairly arrested, detained and prosecuted, even shot by law enforcement personnel, under a law they knew little about.

The campaign was organised by the Justice Project Pakistan as a series of pop-up events in collaboration with the Independent Theatre Company to raise awareness about the ambiguities in the Anti-Terrorism Act and how they facilitate violation of fundamental rights of ordinary citizens. The campaign is called Koi Bhi, Kahin Bhi, Kisi Bhi Waqt (anyone, anywhere, anytime).

Senate unanimously approves cybercrime bill with amendments

The JPP activists moved around in the city and used placards to draw attention to themselves. The placards carried cartoons drawn by Bibi Hajra Cheema.

Once a sizeable crowd gathered, the team distributed pamphlets on the ATA and explained the impact it could have on them. One bystander remarked, “You all are doing good work. We need to know about these things.”

The campaigners discussed the vague definition of the term ‘terrorist’ provided in the law. They said such a broad definition allowed police and other security agencies to arbitrarily charge those held for other crimes with terrorism.

Posters prepared for the campaign to highlight the threat to fundamental rights from abuse of terrorism laws. PHOTO: EXPRESS 

They said as defined in the ATA, terrorist activity could also include organising a political rally or protest demonstration. Minor crimes like disrupting a communication system, too, could be prosecuted as terrorism.

The pamphlet mentioned that 10 per cent of prisoners currently on death row had been convicted under the ATA. Of these, 88 per cent had committed offences with no discernible connection to terrorism the way lay people understand it. The campaigners also informed participants about unregulated power police and security agencies had to detain and at times shoot those they believed to have been committing an offence under the law.

CII proposes husbands be allowed to 'lightly beat'

Citizens were also told about the problems with speedy trials. They were told that under the ATA, trials must be completed in a week and could proceed without the accused or their lawyer being present. The campaigners discussed death penalty, saying judges hearing cases under the ATA were expected to impose the maximum penalty in most cases.

Mehreen Abid Mir, who runs the Independent Theatre Company, talked about how she and her friends at the JPP had been inspired to start the awareness campaign.

“We started this campaign after we noticed a spike in terrorism cases,” she said. She said, “Public response to this campaign has been great. Some people get riled up when they hear of misuse of the law. Most of them know or have heard of someone who has been affected by it.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2016.


Irfan Ahmed | 7 years ago | Reply Good move.
Asif Maalik | 7 years ago | Reply This campaign should be extended to Karachi and Baluchistan.
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