A lot of people who believe that the PTI-PAT duo violated several laws during the course of their sit-ins in Islamabad, have taken an issue with categorising their misguided and illegal acts, such as attacking the parliament and PTV headquarters, under the umbrella of terrorism. This raises several questions: what constitutes an act of terrorism? Are acts of terrorism exclusive to widely acknowledged terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda and the TTP? Is there a line we draw, where violent political activity crosses over into the realm of terrorism? The law does enable us to objectively assess activities and bracket them under various categories accordingly, but does a seemingly all-encompassing law such as the Anti-Terrorism Act threaten political freedoms? After all, the history of this country is littered with misuse of laws to victimise political opponents and curtail civil liberties. Or can these laws in fact act as guidelines for political parties and citizens at large, pushing them to subscribe to a code of conduct that does not violate the law while simultaneously preserving their rights and liberties as well as their ability to exercise them?

The argument that the PTI is a political party and therefore when it employs “unauthorised and unofficial use of force in pursuit of political objectives” – the widely accepted definition of terrorism – it should be regarded as ‘political activity’ and not terrorism, stems from our narrow, even prejudiced, view on the subject. Bearded men, armed with guns and rocket launchers, attacking state buildings and spreading terror to implement Sharia – that is the version of terrorism we are all too familiar and comfortable with. Replace the religious fundamentalists with PTI and PAT supporters, take away the rocket launchers and hand them sticks and slingshots, watch them attack the parliament and take over PTV HQ with their choice of weapons that cannot cause blasts but inflict injury nonetheless, as they challenge the writ of state, not in self defense but as a deliberate offensive move, on the question of electoral rigging instead of implementation of Sharia. How do we justify describing one version as terrorism and the other as political activity? Keeping this in view, it would appear that the anti-terrorism court is not actually overreaching. That the courts and the police are subject to political influence is an issue pertaining to the justice system as a whole, and is in no way specific to anti-terrorism courts and so cannot be offered as a legitimate defense.