Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday recommended Parliament to redefine the word "terrorism" in line with international perspectives, saying its definition is too wide and includes so many actions which have no nexus with the generally recognised concept of the menace.
Pakistan in the past has been accused by the US of harbouring terror groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network within its borders. Last year, the Trump administration suspended more than USD 1.15 billion security aid to Islamabad over its failure to take "decisive actions" against terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
In the 59-page judgment authored by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa, the Supreme Court said: "We may observe that the definition of 'terrorism' contained in section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 as it stands at present is too wide and the same includes so many actions, designs and purposes which have no nexus with the generally recognized concept of what terrorism is".
"Apart from that including some other heinous offences in the Preamble and the Third Schedule to that Act for trial of such offences by an Anti-Terrorism Court when such other offences do not qualify to be included in the definition of terrorism puts an extra and unnecessary burden on such courts and causes delay in trial of actual cases of terrorism," The Express Tribune quoted the apex court as saying.
It is, therefore, recommended that Parliament may consider substituting the present definition of "terrorism" by a more succinct definition bringing it in line with the international perspectives of that offence and focusing on violent activities aimed at achieving political, ideological or religious objectives, the judgment said.
"We further recommend that Parliament may also consider suitably amending the Preamble to the Act and removing all those offences from the Third Schedule to the Act which offences have no nexus with the offence of terrorism," it said.
The seven-judge bench, presided by the CJP on April 2, reserved a verdict on the issue, the report said.
The meaning, scope and import of the term 'terrorism' is defined in Section-6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. It has been amended repeatedly and has been the subject of controversy in the apex court for some time. Different benches of varying strength deciding different cases have differed with each other in the past and have understood and interpreted the said term differently, it said.
It is in this backdrop that the present bench has been constituted so as to put an end to that controversy, the report said.
The judgment says that terrorism as in 'ism' is a totally different concept which denotes commission of a crime with the design or purpose of destabilising the government, disturbing the society or hurting a section of the society with a view to achieving objectives which are essentially political, ideological or religious, according to the report.
"This approach also appears to be in harmony with the emerging international perspective and perception about terrorism," the judgment said.
The international perception is also becoming clearer on the point that a violent activity against civilians that has no political, ideological or religious aims is just an act of criminal delinquency, a felony, or simply an act of insanity unrelated to terrorism, the report said.
"This metamorphosis in the anti-terrorism law in our country has brought about a sea change in the whole concept as we have understood it in the past and it is, therefore, of paramount importance for all concerned to understand this conceptual modification and transformation in its true perspective," the apex court said.