The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday quashed terrorism charges against PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
This is the right course of action. The case, registered against Imran Khan for allegedly threatening Additional Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry and senior police officials during a public rally in Islamabad on August 20, was always going to be political in nature and have political implications, and was never about terrorism in the first place. There was never a true sense of injecting fear into society, as is the case with terrorism.
When political cases, no matter if the accused is in the wrong or not, or has acted unacceptably, are tried from the framework of terrorism in the anti-terrorism courts, our country’s legal system suffers. There has been a lot of development to our anti-terror legislation, with an attempt to bring it up to UN standards. Thus, terror cases lodged against political leaders undermine the whole point of having special courts, especially so when there is a very real threat of terrorism from non-state actors resurging.
The anti-terrorism framework was already flawed—many ordinary cases of theft or murder, while heinous, are not related to the national security aspect that comes with terrorism, but are tried under terrorism anyway. Terrorism is ascribed a special status in law for a particular reason—unlike other crimes, those accused of terrorism are not granted certain protection; for example, the procedures of bail, extended remand of suspects, preventive detention, enhanced police powers and harsher sentences, are only reserved for crimes of terrorism due to the magnitude of the crime. Deterrence is more important here than in other crimes considering it impacts the security apparatus of the country. Anti-terrorism legislation was intended only to be applied to terrorist groups, and never to political rivals.