Ours is a grey area to operate within. After an advocate general produced 5 out of 35 undeclared detainees before a single-judge bench of the Supreme Court, the civil society’s focus fell back on the controversial PPO. Last year, December 5 2013 to be precise, the government quietly enforced the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance through an SPO (Statutory Regulatory Order). President Mamnoon Hussain promulgated the PPO in order to tackle the increasing number of terrorist activities within the country. It is under the PPO that a prosecuting agency of prosecutor general, regional prosecutors general and public prosecutors will be set up. In order to maintain a balance between military power and civilian oversight, the Joint Investigation Team will have 30 days to conclude the investigation and thereon, shall place it before the public prosecutor concerned who will further place it under the regional prosecutor’s examination. It sounds fair but acts far from it.

It goes without saying that we desperately require legislation to cope with our current security situation but our laws cannot and should not be in contravention of fundamental rights.

It is imperative to study and understand the implications and effects of the PPO on human rights as it fringes upon those granted by the Constitution itself such as Article 10-A. Grave errors exist in the PPO that cannot be ignored. For instance, the law permits law enforcement agencies to enter premises, make arrests and possess property without a warrant. Similarly, the law also allows the agencies to lock up any individual if they fail to prove their identity and rejects questioning by the court.

There is a line that has to be drawn between the intrusiveness of law and the protection of civil liberties, and it is not entirely impossible to make, though it becomes even more difficult in a state of war. A draconian mode of justice merely legalizes the violations of human rights in the name of upholding state security – something that has to be taken in consideration by the incumbent government. Yes, we need accountability which can only come if some form of legal cover is given to the agencies involved. But at what cost? It is evident that civilians have been ensnared in a grisly game of hide and seek between law enforcement agencies and actual terrorists; at least 788 Pakistanis remain missing according to the DHRPK. Without suitable amendments, the PPO may further deteriorate security affairs instead of bringing any improvement to them and God knows we cannot afford more of that.