By Hashim Chohan
The military courts were established after the event of APS attack on December 2014 in which 148 civilians mostly children were martyred. The political and military leadership devised a national action plan, According to which military courts will be established and on January 2015 Pakistan legalized military courts trials for a period of two years. In all parties conference political parties willingly or unwillingly gave green signal for the amendment in the Pak army act and provided constitutional cover for speedy trial of terrorists.
Later in August 2015 supreme court of Pakistan also legalized this act under the “doctrine of necessity” upheld 21 amendment allowing military courts to be established parallel to the civil court for a period of two years. Since February 2015 army has convicted 274 individuals and 176 have been sentenced to death. As 5800 Pakistani civilians have lost their life in terrorist attacks and according to survey of 2014-15 Pakistan has lost 107 billion in economic losses since 2003. The civil judiciary has failed to prosecute the terrorists even international crisis group and 2011 state department considered Pakistan as incapable of prosecuting terror suspects, frustrating delays and bureaucratic manipulation have halted the process. So army action became necessary and terrorism had dropped since the establishment of military courts.
The tenure of military courts ended on 7 January 2017 and civilian leadership does not seem to be interested in extending the tenure and trying to put up effective legislation to combat terrorism. Apart from the government many so-called liberals are criticizing the military courts and demanding transparency in the trials without realizing the actual situation of Pakistan. If we look at the history after the World War 2 Nuremberg trials which were established to prosecute 200 German war criminals and the process was legalized by the Civilian institutions because it was necessary at that time so is the case with Pakistan. As our civil judicial system is based on old English Anglo-Saxon laws of 1860’s they were not designed to meet the 21st century security needs of Pakistan. Even the U.S bypasses its own judicial system after 9-11 attacks; Guantanamo bay was established by Bush administration to convict battlefield combatants of Afghanistan war where US military is the Judge, Jury and Executor itself.
Every country takes special measures in desperate times, as Pakistan is fighting for its survival the establishment of military courts was the essential need of the time. As some human rights organizations within the country and international agencies have continued to keep a critical eye on the military courts and demanding more transparency. The prerequisites of Military court trials are the clear evidence that they are only made to convict the hardcore combatants only. The offences for which the military courts can try civilians are as follows, Attacking military installments, kidnapping for ransom, processing storing or transporting firearms, Creating terror or insecurity in Pakistan, waging war against state. These prerequisites are the clear examples that these courts are made to deal with terrorism only.
As some media groups are bashing against the military courts that the “military judges not required a law degree”, let me assure you there is no need to have a law degree to prosecute a person who is willing to die and kill as many as possible with him, all you need is a solid evidence and common sense. According to the statistics between 1990 and 2009, the cases related to terrorism have been increased up to 74 percent and 3 out 4 terrorists were freed by the courts. Not just because of incompetency of civil courts but the Anglo-Saxon laws of our criminal system which are not designed to cope up the 21st century war which is faced by Pakistan. Some leaders of JUI and other Islamic parties are trying to halt the further extension of military courts because of their links with Tehreek-e-taliban Pakistan and other terrorists groups. They may face the same trials in near future because they fulfill the criteria in which military courts can try civilians, and the Anti-terrorism act if implemented properly will eliminate all the terrorists in Pakistan including their supporters in our political parties as well.
This is the reason that our civilian government is reluctant to extend the military court tenure and trying to come up with some alternatives to combat anti-state elements, but the army leadership is determined to raise this issue on all forms. This maybe the turning point for Politicians to choose which side they are on, if the Army act of 1997 would been implemented fully most of the problems faced by Pakistan today can be solved in no time, but the irony is that politicians are not ready to take bold steps because of their own political interests. If PMLN leadership extends the tenure of military courts for another 2 to 3 years it might be nightmare for terrorists but if they don’t Pakistan might face another wave of terrorists’ attacks. If civilian leadership has better alternatives they must announce it openly and implement it as soon as possible. Otherwise military courts must be extended for another 2 to 3 years to eradicate this cancer of terrorism from Pakistan for once and for all. I have very optimistic feeling about Pakistan’s future.