A cursory glance at the amendments in the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2013 will show how the changes proposed and approved vow to hand more power to the paramilitary forces of Pakistan, the Rangers. Suspects in terrorism cases can be held in custody for 90 days before being presented in court under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Prosecutors and witnesses in those incidents will be provided with security. It should be mentioned here that the bill also indicates that intelligence agencies can and should be requested to provide support in the cases of interrogating terrorism suspects. The most remarkable amendment concerns itself with the powers granted to the Rangers: The paramilitary forces will be given the power to shoot on sight. Furthermore, they will also have the permission to shoot culprits involved in kidnapping and destroying national assets.
The primary intention of the amendments is undoubtedly invested in the protection of citizens, but it would be irresponsible of us to forget how the most common complaint against the Rangers is the very same power the bill attempts to legalize: shooting on sight. It was only in 2011 when the Rangers were guilty of the gruesome killing of a young boy in Karachi. The video proof of it spread like fire on social media, and civil society as well as the parliament issued livid condemnation. In June this year, Rangers’ officials shot a man dead in Karachi for simply failing to pull his car over in Shah Faisal Colony. The list goes on.
The recklessness shown by the very same institutions that claim to defend the lives of civilians is something that cannot be ignored so easily. The Rangers have accrued an unfortunate reputation for their constant disregard for human life in places that are already stricken with conflict, like Karachi. While the intention behind the bill is not being questioned, the outcome of it – with even more powerful Rangers – certainly does cause more concern and, possibly, more bloodshed.