‘Straight to hell’ military courts

 All the parliamentary parties last week decided to set up special courts to be presided over by army officers for trying suspected terrorists. But having an independent judiciary system already rooted in the country, why do we need parallel military courts.

Article 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan provides safeguards against unlawful arrest and detention, as a fundamental right to every person. The article states that every person, who is arrested and detained in custody, shall be produced before a magistrate within a period of 24 hours of such arrest.

It's true that many terrorists that were captured in various operations by security forces and handed over to law enforcement agencies, were eventually released after being tried by civilians courts - mainly because of lack of evidences. But can this problem be solved by establishing military courts that would nearly deprive 'civilians' of their rights for a fair trial. Chances are that more innocent people would be tried and executed. 

We already have Aid of Civil Power Act 2011 enforced in the tribal areas of Pakistan that allows the armed forces to detain an accused miscreant and bars high courts from exercising any jurisdiction under Article 199. But what have we achieved so far through this legislation? Are there any concrete results?

The major problem here is the lack of capacity building of law enforcement agencies and the absence of security that should be provided to witnesses and judges in terror cases. Saleem Shahzad's case is a well-known example. When the case was handed over to law enforcement agencies, the basic forensics, like fingerprints, weren't collected from his car. We all have seen how Ahrarul Hind managed to scare off the witnesses and Anti-Terrorism Court judges in Benazir Bhutto murder trial.

Instead of devising this shortcut to make things look better on surface, a more intelligent measure would be to rectify these loopholes in the existing system? Instead of using article 245 of the Constitution to formulate a parallel justice system, why can’t the armed forces aid civil justice system by providing security to judges and witnesses under the same article.

This terrorism is not a fight against Pakistan military only; it is a fight against the state, as people who have lost their live in the hands of these terrorists are mostly local citizens. We give graphic images of those involved in targetting high profile military officers and places to papers’ front pages, to make their punishment exemplary. But we let those out of jail, who confess killing scores of Shias and are involved in the secretarial killings of nearly 4000 of the sect. 

Army enforced measures cannot be the solution for this gruesome problem of terrorism against state. To tackle this  we will have to address the root causes that give rise to terrorist-mindset. And this sure cannot be done by further curbing the rights of fair trials, on the basis of mere suspicion.

2028 hours
Monday 29 December 2014

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