Rioters’ trail and spiel of military tribunals

PPP leader and reputed senior lawyer, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan has filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging trial of civilians in military courts and prayed for the cancelation of the federal government’s decision in this regard. According to the petition, the federal government has rubber-stamped the corps commanders’ decision of trying the perpetrators of May’s 9 attack in the military court. The petition further reads that the decision of holding military court trials of civilians under Section 2 of the Army Act has been in contravention of Article 59 of the Constitution. Petitioner argued that Section 94 of the Army Act and the rules of 1970 are incomparable and pleaded with the court to declare Section 94 and the relevant rules unconstitutional. The petitioner also seeks the court to revoke the government’s decision of handing over the accused to the military authorities and sought their release from government custody.

The state and the people of Pakistan fell victim to the merciless and pugnacious policies of their leaders. Years-long combative politics seriously polarized the nation while persistent political anarchy badly marred the economic situation in the country. The contesting political groups have transfigured politics into personal enmity and blatantly use illegal means and discourteous methods to frustrate their adversary. The sensitive foreign policy matters, economic policies, and most important decisions relating to national defense became a mere political tool for the opposing factions. The May 9 violence and trail of the rioters has opened up another Pandora box in the country. The military and coalition government are determined to try the culprits involved in attacks on military and state installations in the military courts under the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, and other relevant provisions under the constitution. The government has handed over dozens of accused to the military for their onward trial in the military courts, while Federal Cabinet and the National Assembly okayed the government’s decision to this effect.

There had been tremendous public uproar in the country and criticism from the global community including the United States, human rights groups, foreign media, and civil society against the government’s decision regarding the trial of May 9 rioters in the military courts, who perceive it a violation of fundamental rights of the Pakistani citizens. Meanwhile, the coalition government remained steadfast in its decision so far. The government claims that it ensures the protection of the fundamental rights of the accused/criminals and the law gives them the right to appeal in the higher courts in the country.

Presently, a nationwide debate is underway in the country over the issue of military courts, while a majority of scholars, human rights activists, civil society, media persons, and lawyers associations have contradicted the government’s decision and condemned the constitution of military courts over May 9 violence. The critics are of the view that the government has the authority and all resources available to expedite the culprit’s trial in the common courts while Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATC) are another suitable forum to deal with such issues, that can be used to try May 9 rioters instead of dragging military in this issue. The coalition partners also have differences on this subject and various other issues that have now become more visible after the recent exchange of statements between the PPP Chairman and senior leaders of the PML-N regarding the allocation of funds for flood victims in the recent budget. Currently, a senior PPP leader and legal expert had brought this issue to the Supreme Court which would surely examine the case in the light of the provisions of the constitution and will deliver an unchangeable verdict about this controversy.

May 9 incidents are certainly condemnable and all the culprits involved whoever and from which group they belong, must be punished through transparent investigations and a fair prosecution. Yesterday Sheharyar Afridi distanced himself from the drug case filed against Rana Sanaullah by the PTI government and put the entire burden on ANF, while his mentor already accused the former Army Chief of all misdemeanors committed by him during his whole tenure as Prime Minister over three and a half years. No doubt Shehbaz and his aides will level the blame for their current-day wrongdoings on Army Generals in the future. Unfortunately, this fiasco is likely to end up in professional and reputation loss to the national institutions including the Pakistan Military, the judiciary, the parliament, and others. Pakistan has an abundance of declared and invisible enemies who undoubtedly unceasingly working to weaken our defense forces and create a rift between the public and the military. The government and the military must not take an egoistic approach on this issue as if the court’s verdict comes agaisnt the military tribunals it would be an embarrassing situation for them. Pakistan is passing through a crucial phase that merits resilience and wisdom from the leadership instead of rigidity and confrontation, which bridges the gap, promotes unity, and moves the nation toward stability and growth.