Fair Trial Bill: Separating truth from fiction

20 Feb

I’ve been hearing a lot of people complaining about the Fair Trial Bill that is hopefully going to come into effect very soon. The only sort of criticism I hear leveled against the bill is “it’s taking away my right to privacy.” Anyone who knows the first thing about me knows that privacy is a right I have consistently advocated. However, what we must understand is that the Fair Trial Bill does not deprive us of any ‘freedom’ or ‘privacy’ that we are entitled to. It simply provides a rather comprehensive framework of how to deal with the terrorism problem that Pakistan (along with the rest of the world) is faced with. The Bill provides an effective legal mechanism through which communications can be intercepted (as they are in most parts of the world for security reasons). We take a look at the developed world and see that this Bill is not trying to create a police state as is being misleadingly propagated. We turn towards the United Kingdom, one of the best examples of a democracy, and we see the Interceptions of Communications Act 1985, which allows the relevant authorities to listen in on our phone calls (to put it in its most basic terms). This piece of legislation exists despite the passage of the Human Rights Act 1998 which incorporated parts of the European Convention on Human Rights into the domestic law of the UK. Though this Act provides citizens rights to privacy, private family life and correspondence (in addition to several other rights and freedoms), it allows for derogation from these rights in the circumstances listed within the Act itself, for instance, public safety. This is reaffirmed by a bundle of case law.

It is important to bear in mind that we live in a world that is unfortunately a very dangerous one. We do not have many of the same freedoms that existed pre-9/11. We cannot travel without ‘inconvenience’ because every little item in our luggage is searched. We cannot carry certain items on a plane because they are a security threat. Similarly, we cannot expect to have our telephone conversations free from all interception when we live in a society where innocent lives are put on the line on a daily basis. Such are the costs associated with an exacerbated terrorism problem. But we’re not alone – this Bill is not being implemented for the first time ever. Yes, for Pakistan, it is an entirely new concept, but one of utmost necessity.

Moreover, people seem to forget that we live in a society where the intelligence agencies have, time and time again, acted in an extra-judicial manner. They have listened in on our phone conversations without having the legal right to do so. Due to the fact that there is little to no proof we can accumulate to hold them accountable, we have no legal remedies. If this bill is passed, Pakistan will, for the first time in its history, be able to hold the intelligence agencies accountable through a legal channel. With the passage of the Fair Trial Bill, the system will be subject to a cohesive legal framework which grants citizens the means to protect their rights, and appeal decisions and orders. Similarly, the intelligence agencies can be held accountable through judicial review which not only strengthens the judiciary but enhances transparency and accountability, which are in dire need of improvement.

Lastly, there is one aspect of criticism that I do agree with regarding this bill, and that is the exclusion of parliamentarians and elected representatives from being subjected to this bill. If we want to work together for a Pakistan that develops and eradicates the menace of terrorism, we need to work on equal ground. All citizens must be subjected to such a law that is in society’s best interest.

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2 Responses to “Fair Trial Bill: Separating truth from fiction”

  1. Aamir awan February 21, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    Madam fair trial bill now becam act “fair trial act 2012”
    This act has some loop holes , however, it will help to counter terrorism.
    I think ammendment in articles of QSO(Qanoon e shahadat order) is needed to get admissible some evidence which is not otherwise admissible. Evidentury value of prosecution investigators should have been given weight also..

  2. Shaukat Khan February 21, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    Very nice your progrem

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