If you thought that the judicial and law and order agencies were the mortal enemies of the terrorists that seek to harm us all you would be wrong. Indeed in many instances quite the opposite is true. The light on this parlous state of affairs has been shone by a case study that investigated shortfalls in the police, prosecution and judicial systems and it makes uncomfortable reading. Most uncomfortable was the revelation that there were more acquittals and fewer convictions in terrorism cases in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) than ought to be the norm.
Uncomfortable as it may be the report by an experts committee operating under the Pakistan’s Action to Counter Terrorism project has examined 20 cases heard by the anti-terrorism courts in K-P over the last five years. The majority fall short in that they are not supported by evidence and a majority of them even failed to make it as far as a courtroom. The inevitable conclusion is that guilty men have walked free. In K-P the conviction rate was 28 per cent in 2016, and there were acquittals in more than half of the cases presented to the K-P courts in the same year. The situation in the rest of the country was better but not by much. Of the 500 cases registered under anti-terrorism legislation in 2016, there was a recommendation of discharge at the prosecution stage of 316, and more than half of those that made it to court resulted in acquittal.
The reason for this lamentable state of affairs is easy to pinpoint. The police everywhere lack the competencies as well as the facilities to gather the evidence that would lead to a successful prosecution. Many are poorly educated and lack in-service training. Witnesses are not sufficiently protected. Confessional evidence is poorly understood at the judicial level. Cases to be presented are poorly recorded even in anti-terror courts. And none of this is new news. All of which begs the question as to just how far the state is committed to breaking the terrorist hold. And on this evidence the answer has to be — lukewarm at best. Carry on regardless.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2018.