To counter financial terrorism in the country has been one of the utmost priorities of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government from the first day. While the problem needs to be dealt with given the massive scale at which the crime takes place, however, the government’s wish to place the matter under the jurisdiction of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) is a cause for concern, as rightly dismissed by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Interior on Thursday. The government, as part of a carefully laid out plan, needs to invest in reforming the judicial system to be able to deal with crimes of terrorism.

The extension being offered to the Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATCs) is already being viewed very critically, as there are several complaints of innocents being framed for such crimes. To expand the jurisdiction of these courts would result in another avenue opening up in the polity where those being investigated for the crimes would not be offered a fair trial. The backlog of cases within the judicial setup will be addressed with the establishment of model courts. The government and the judiciary should now work towards taking up cases of terrorism in order to shift responsibility from the ATCs.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, is also of the opinion that the framework for the operation of the ATCs should be narrowed down so that normal crimes can be addressed within courts. The more normal crimes are added within the jurisdiction of the ATC, there will a lot of confusion along with stricter punishments that will go unchallenged in the system, robbing several of their right to a fair trial, as guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan.

There certainly is pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to overcome the financial challenges that prevent financial transactions from being monitored thoroughly, however, resorting to ad-hoc solutions will not improve the situation in the longer run. Institutions already working within the system should be improved with the help of all the stakeholders involved, especially the judiciary, that has played an important role in the last couple of years and has established its reputation as those serving the law of the land. In such a scenario, the government should seek cooperation and improve internal matters.