Why Military Courts
No civilised society would like to have extra judicial measures imposed on it unless extra ordinary circumstances warrant so to maintain the very spirit of rule of law; establishment of Guantanamo Bay Jail by the USA after 9/11 is a case in point. For Pakistan, unfortunately, the situation is quite opposite where even in the normal circumstances it takes generations to get justice that too for a few lucky ones. For an ordinary Pakistani citizen Judicial process is a little too lengthy, frustrating and far more expensive specially so when the opposing party is strong and influential who has the power to change the evidence and buy the witnesses to their favour even in murder cases.
Thus, virtually, the jungle law, ‘might is right’ prevails in the width and breadth of the society and justice in most cases is denied to the ordinary citizens. Corruption is rampant, politicised and untrained police can be bribed for anything and everything and as far as the reliability of the the courts is concerned, there is a common saying that instead of hiring a solicitor better hire a judge.
Only 6% of the total area of Baluchistan is under the so called control of police while the remaining 94% is out of police jurisdiction and under levies force loyal to their local tribal heads. Before the recent merger of FATA into KPK all the seven tribal agencies were considered as “ Ilaqa Ghair” where murderers and dacoits from all across the country used to seek refuge and no law enforcement agency of Pakistan had the legal power to bring them to the justice.
Similarly, tribal areas of Punjab adjoining Baluchistan and Sindh and ‘Kacha’ Areas are still considered as safe havens for the law evaders. Even if convicted, the powerful ones have their gangs working in the jails and plan and execute crimes even from there.
In the above lawlessness, American invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 and forced inclusion of Pakistan in the War on Terror provided a golden opportunity to the hostile intelligence agencies to wage 5th generation War on Pakistan. Indian Consulates in Afghanistan were quick in hiring, training and equipping so called Taliban to attack Law Enforcement Agencies, sensitive installations and later on turned to softer targets and attacked Army Public School Peshawar on 16 December 2014 killing more than 130 innocent children. Similarly, the likes of Kulbushan Jadhav created havoc in Baluchistan and Urban Sind, they even did not spare religious sites, gatherings and shrines. To counter the menace of terrorism, beside series of military operations in FATA, all segments of Pakistani society unanimously agreed on a National Action Plan and establishment of Military Courts for the speedy trial of perpetrators of terror and quick dispensation of justice to satisfy emotions of the bereaved families to an extent. The Military Courts have since been trying the convicts in a most professional and transparent manner working day and night to bring them to justice.
Unfortunately, a small segment of Pakistani society duly funded by foreign NGOs keeps raising its voice against the functioning of Military Courts without taking into consideration the extraordinary circumstances which necessitated their very establishment. People of Pakistan expect their elected leadership to legislate for the judicial reforms ensuring quick justice pending which military courts are the only option to dispense justice as execution of number of hardcore terrorists has helped in breaking their organised network.
As compared to the existing civil courts which take years to decide, the cases of terrorists are being disposed off in weeks and months by military courts.
By virtue of being a security organisation and fighting war against terrorism, Army is best suited to handle, interrogate and try the terrorists as per Pakistan Army Act, 1952. Although, some reforms in improving police, prosecution, protection of witnesses and certain judicial restructuring have been taken however, major steps to strengthen civil legal system and judicial process have yet to be taken.
Security of Judges and their families dealing with terrorists cases remains highest priority, Military Courts lessen risk to the lives of judicial staff. Judges dealing with such criminals remain under alot of pressure therefore at a number of times criminals convicted by the military courts were acquitted by the civil courts which can go against the very spirit of Operation Radd Ul Fassad and thus necessitates a constitutional amendment. Pakistan Army has just successfully concluded the war on terror and is in transitional stages of handing over the cleared areas to the civil administration.
The Prime Minister has recently visited North Waziristan and announced to establish a university and medical college besides other developmental projects there, CPEC project is also being executed at full swing specially the Gwadar Port. If we don’t deal quickly with the perpetrators of terror they will soon be at large again and all the sacrifices of Law Enforcement Agencies and thousands of civilians will go to waste.
All elements of national power for the first time in our history are at one page to achieve peace and stability, we will therefore, have to live with the undesired way of law dispensation for the time being before we build capacity of police, improve prosecution process, undertake judicial restructuring and strengthen legal process to ensure timely justice to the common people.