Friday, November 08, 2013

Blog 9: Pakistan drafts its own Patriot Act.

Pakistan has suffered many acts of terrorism over the past few years, last year over two thousand people were killed in such attacks. In the wake of worldwide efforts to thwart terrorism after the 2001 September 11th attacks, Pakistan remained silent. Now, however, it has begun efforts to draft its own legal efforts to combat potential terrorist threats. The new law, which models many of its passages after the US Patriot Act, is set to expand the power of judges and the military. International Human Rights groups are worried that these new powers are too vague to avoid abuses. One such provision allows anyone "reasonably able to be inferred as an enemy combatant" or "enemy alien" to be detained by the government indefinitely. Criticisms have been launched at the bill that it might be unfairly used to persecute Afghani refugees, displaced from their own country in part by the political turmoil following the US ground invasion and war on terror. There are already reports of internment camps and citizens disappearing. The new law even allows the military to seize potential terrorists without a warrant. There is also the question of "Why now?" Over a decade after many other countries passed sweeping bills similar to the Patriot Act, what does Pakistan hope to gain by implementing these new policies now?

The US Patriot Act was passed without too much effort after the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11th. People wanted to feel protected and safe, and the Patriot Act offered them that safety. However, hidden under the innocuous and nationalist title, the Patriot Act had many vaguely defined clauses and extensions of powers, many that activists thought were ripe for abuse. After the recent NSA whistle blowing case domestic surveillance and government spying has hit the headlines and everyone has something to say about it. However, many of the issues the world faces now are in part due to clauses and amendments within the Patriot Act itself. Wiretapping and detainment of US citizens under suspicion of terrorist activities or ties to terrorist cells could, and potentially have already been used, to persecute or put pressure on dissidents and political activists. The vague nature of these documents, and the vague way in which they describe not only terrorism, but enemy combatants, causes much concern for international human rights groups. Pakistan itself has already seen allegations of abuse of power and detainment. Activists have gone missing, even random average citizens have reported being detained by police without warrants, or even being informed of why or where they were being held. It is possible for these documents, through their intentional ambiguous nature, to allow new powers to suppress political rivals or activism. As pressure continues to build against the US's domestic policy on surveillance, the Patriot Act, and the actions of the NSA, it is odd that Pakistan would choose such a time to introduce their own legislation that so closely mirrors it. As the new bill is already set to go into action the world can only wait and see how it is used.

Aaron Fountain
4:38 PM

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