The Protection of Pakistan Act’s (PoPA) expiry last month has invited questions about its efficacy once more. There was never really a case for establishing this law in terms of expediting the judicial process in cases of terrorism, simply because there are Anti-Terrorism Courts that essentially serve the same purpose. Legal experts have claimed that many aspects of the law were redundant, because provisions handing down similar powers were already included in other laws, such as the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997. The simple fact that the government seems indifferent to its extension even a month after the stipulated time ended is evidence that the ruling party, or at least some within it, might just be thinking along the same lines.

However, the most pressing concern if this law is allowed to expire will be of the 30 pending cases that were registered under it. Prosecutors maintain that the actions considered as crimes within the PoPA also come under the ambit of other laws. However, the argument of the defending lawyers is sensible as well, who feel that the cases will have to be scrapped, at least initially, because they were registered under a law that is now defunct. This should give one pause, considering former Home Minister Shuja Khanzada’s murder case is one of those on the list.

But of course, expediting the judicial process in cases of terrorism was not the only thing the law was about. Foremost among the provisions is the power given to police and the armed forces, to enter and search without a warrant, detain, arrest, or even fire at suspects. If the government were to renew this law, then it would have to prove that giving this power to the security forces has been useful, and that attacks have been prevented this way. With over two years to work with the law in place, this should not be too much of a burden to prove.

The legislation was not well-thought out to begin with. The special courts set up by the legislation served no real purpose and were not even established immediately, funds were not released, the powers given to security forces were too vague and left in a lot of room for exploitation and seemed arbitrary. The only issue with PoPA’s revocation is concerning the fate of the cases in its special court, for which the government should find legal reasons to move to other arms of the judiciary. Other than that, it should probably bid farewell to a law that was drafted hastily, only to give of appearance of the government leaping into action, when in reality, it was not really even a step in the right direction.