ISLAMABAD - A day after the country’ political leadership devised the Nation Action Plan on Counter Terrorism, the interior ministry has decided to detain around 7,000 suspected terrorists, criminals and activists of banned sectarian as well as militant organisations across the country who have been placed under Fourth Schedule of Anti-terrorism Act, 1997.

The government places such persons under Fourth Schedule, a watch list, who by their disposition could pose a threat to public peace and security. The government can place any person under Fourth Schedule who has been associated with a militant or sectarian organisation in the past or has been involved in criminal activities in the past but gives an affidavit to the government that he would no more be associated with any banned militant or sectarian organisation in future or engage in any criminal activity.

The fresh data of all persons placed under the Fourth Schedule has been compiled with the help of provinces and the decision is being taken to detain all these after some intelligence reports that some of persons placed under Schedule were missing, an official of the interior ministry said. Any suspected terrorist or suspected activist of a terrorist or sectarian organization placed under Fourth Schedule cannot leave place of his residence or his home town without giving prior information to the police station concerned.

According to data compiled by the ministry, 6,777 suspected terrorists or criminals have been placed under Fourth Schedule of ATA, 1997 and out of them, 4,000 are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1,416 in Punjab, 1,000 in Sindh, 338 in Balochistan and 23 in Islamabad.

However, the media wing of the interior ministry neither confirmed nor rejected that such decision has been taken. An official of the Special Branch of Punjab Police as well as an official of Islamabad Police said they had not received any orders from higher authorities about the detention of suspected persons placed under Fourth Schedule.

“We have been asked to keep a close eye on all the persons placed under Fourth Schedule and their activities but we have not received any orders of their arrest,” an official of Special Branch of Punjab Police said.

In a related development, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the meeting of his political and legal aides today to discuss ways and means for expeditiously implementing the decisions taken by the political and military elite of the country to eliminate the menace of terrorism.

Sources informed The Nation that the prime minister already had a series of meetings with his close political associates and also with legal minds to discuss the legal and constitutional intricacies of the matter and removal of hurdles in the swift implementation of national plan of action against terrorism.

On the recommendation of the political leadership, who were in attendance at the all parties conference at PM House, a committee of experts comprising Ch Aitzaz Ahsan, Afrasiab Khattak, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Barrister Faroogh Naseem, Hamid Khan, Special Assistant to PM on Parliamentary Affairs Barrister Zafarullah, Attorney General of Pakistan Sulman Butt and Kh Zaheer, had already been tasked to remove the legal and constitutional hurdles in the way of constitution of special trial courts manned by Armed Forces personnel.

The decision of constitution of special trial courts headed by army officers came under scathing criticism in legal and constitutional circles and even the support to these courts by mainstream political parties was also cautious and careful in nature.

Premier Sharif discussed the political fallout of the decision with his close aides wherein it was decided that these special courts must be given the constitutional cover so that the same could not be challenged in the court of law because in that case the matter would go in limbo.

Sources in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz informed that the Premier wanted removal of all hitches before the constitution of these special courts to avoid any hurdles coming in the functioning of these courts at some later stage.

They said that Prime Minister Sharif directed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to request the experts committee to accomplish the task of proposing some legal and constitutional cover to these special courts, so that the legislation could be done on it in the upcoming session of the National Assembly starting from the first week of January. Legal and constitutional experts said that the government could insert an additional clause in Article 245 to give constitutional cover to these special courts.

The sources said in today’s meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would also take the input on other points agreed in the APC and the swift implementation on the same. Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali would likely be briefing the meeting on the steps to be taken on part of his ministry on activation of Nacta and constitution of counter-terrorism force.

UN CHIEF PHONES NAWAZ

Online adds: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon telephoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and condoled with him over Peshawar tragedy.

He said the entire world community condemns the barbaric attack.

The UN Secretary General said international community stands with Pakistan in this difficult hour.