On Monday, the National Assembly took up two bills concerning amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). The first of the two looks to establish the definition of economic terrorism for the first time, which is in line with the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) conditions to get us off the grey list. Transactions worth Rs50 million by a single agent in a month will now be included under the ambit of terror financing.

PPP has voiced concerns over providing proof of terrorism before criminalising large transactions, however, the amount in question is large enough to warrant getting flagged by the government. Since clamping down on terror financing is the key objective for FATF, perhaps this amendment should be taken as is, unless opposition members can find a way to make the definition more specific while adhering to the FATF guidelines.

The second amendment relates to extending the detention period of terror suspects from 15 days to 90, which is a little excessive. In this case, the PPP is not wrong to suggest that avenues for abuse of ATA open up with a blanket extension of remand periods.

Sunday’s clean up in North Waziristan, in which four soldiers were martyred tells us that the fight against terrorism is not truly over, even though our security forces have all but driven militancy out of the country. But with 90 days under detention, the chances of false confessions and abuse are likely to increase. Our focus must continue to be to strengthen our investigative and intelligence capabilities in these cases instead of hoping that the lengthy detention will lead to finding out who is guilty.

Pakistan has made more headway against terrorism than any other state in the world, all without this extended remand; there is no reason to believe that 90 days instead of 15 will necessarily lead to more convictions. It is hoped that these issues are raised in the debate in the NA on these amendments.