ANTI-TERRORISM ACT OF 1997 Troubled by the growing incidence of violence in the country, some of it related to the conflict among different religious, ethnic, and social groups, the government of Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif decided to take extraordinary measures to deal with the situation The Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 was one consequence of these moves The government’s concern-if not the precise initiatives taken by it-was shared by most segments of the population It was troubling for many people, however, that the government chose to rush the legislation through the National Assembly with little debate The passage of the act was seen as one more indication of the consolidation of power in the hands of the executive, which had transpired since the assumption of power by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif The legislation empowered the government to prosecute people accused of terrorist acts by bypassing normal judicial channels Special tribunals could be established that could move expeditiously by sidestepping the cumbersome procedures that had to be followed by courts The passage of the act was challenged by its opponentsespecially human rights activists-on the grounds that it was unconstitutional In March 1998, the Lahore High Court gave the government 90 days within which to bring the provisions into line with the constitution

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