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Pakistan has dedicated federal legislation that provides for broad terrorist offences and established special anti-terrorism courts that do not meet international fair trial standards. The 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) provides the main legal framework for counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan.

Compliance with International Law:
Last updated: one year ago

The Definition of Terrorism in Domestic Law

Section 6(1) of the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act defines terrorism as the use or threat of action where certain predicate offences are 

designed to coerce and intimidate or overawe the Government or the public or a section of the public or community or section or a foreign government or population or an international organization or create a sense of fear or insecurity in society, or 

the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a religious, sectarian or ethnic cause or intimidating and terrorizing the public, social sectors, media persons, business community or attacking the civilians, including damaging property by ransacking, looting, arson or by any other means, government officials, installations, security forces or law enforcement agencies.

Provided that nothing herein contained shall apply to a democratic and religious rally or a peaceful demonstration in accordance with law.

 The right of peaceful assembly is thus explicitly excluded from terrorist offences.

Section 6(2) of the 1997 Act lays down the predicate offences for terrorism. which include those causing death, "grievous violence", or damage to property, along with kidnapping, extortion, intimidation, and barring public servants from their duties.

Any violation of international conventions on terrorism adhered to by Pakistan are also considered acts of terrorism under the ATA. 

Adherence to Global and Regional Terrorism Treaties


Pakistan is a State Party to several pf the main United Nations terrorism treaties.


Adherence to Global Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1973 Convention on Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons State Party
1979 Hostage-Taking Convention State Party
1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention State Party
1999 Terrorist Financing Convention State Party
2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention State not party

In adhering to the 1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention, Pakistan declared that:

The Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan declares that nothing in this Convention shall be applicable to struggles, including armed struggle, for the realization of right of self-determination launched against any alien or foreign occupation or domination, in accordance with the rules of international law.  This interpretation is consistent with Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969 which provides that an agreement or treaty concluded in conflict with an existing jus cogens or prremptory norm of international law is void and, the right of self-determination is universally recognized as a jus cogens.

Many States objected to this declaration on the basis that it is a prohibited reservation.


Pakistan is also party to the OIC 1999 Convention on International Terrorism and the SAARC 1987 Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol.


Adherence to Regional Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
OIC 1999 Convention on International Terrorism State Party
SAARC 1987 Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism State Party
2004 Additional Protocol to the SAARC Convention State Party

The OIC Convention explicitly excludes national liberation movements from terrorist crimes.

Laws and Penalties for Terrorist Offences

Section 7 of the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act lays down the penalties for the many terrorist offences.

Anyone causing the death of any person in an act of terrorism is punishable, upon conviction, with the death penalty or with imprisonment for life. The same penalties may be imposed for kidnapping for ransom or hostage-taking or hijacking.

Where death is endangered but not caused, the penalty is imprisonment for not less than five years and up to fourteen years.

The special Anti-Terrorist Courts (ATC) are intended to promote speedy justice and enforce law and order, with judges under pressure to complete trials within seven days. 

Counterterrorism Capacities and Policies at Domestic Level

The ATA allows police to detain a person for up to thirty days without review or the possibility of a habeas petition.S. 21, ATA. 

Section 4 of the 1997 ATA empowers the armed forces to support the civil authorities to prevent and punish terrorist acts. Section 5 regulates the use of force by the armed forces and the arrest of any person who has committed an act of terrorism or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he/she has committed, or is about to commit, any such act or offence.


Pakistan 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act

Justice Project Report on Pakistan