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Military Courts for Terrorism Cases

Under a democratically elected government, the set up of military courts for terrorism cases,indicates a failure and incompetence of the incumbent civilian government to counter terrorism and a failure of the current civil judicial system to dispose of cases at a speed and with judgments which could be considered or noted as satisfactory by concerned parties and public.

For this failure, there are three main reasons:

1. The incumbent government has not prioritized the menace of terrorism as its no. 1 priority. This shows from the fact that National Security Policy (NSP) was announced by Interior Minister – Ch Nisar Ali Khan, on 26th February, 2014, 9 months after coming into power. Since the announcement of NSP, no concrete practical steps have been taken by the government until 17th December, 2014 – the day when a barbaric act of terrorism in Army Public School – Peshawar by Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) took lives of about 135 innocent students. This barbaric act of terrorism forced the government to reassess its prioritize. Henceforth, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for Multi Parties Conference (MPC) in Peshawar with purpose to bring political and military leadership on same page and that to show the nation that to counter terrorism is the no. 1 priority of political and military leadership.

2. The point to make here is that Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz came into power in May 2013 but until 17th December 2014, the civil government could not develop any consensus among political and military leadership and could not take any concrete practical steps to counter terrorism. Pakistan is fighting against terrorism since 2004 and since then about 50 thousands civilians and law enforcement officers laid their lives. But the priorities of civilian government were different than terrorism in the country. Therefore, no legal, constitutional and institutional homework has been done to cater needs of anti-terrorism war.

3. Police is the major civil force that not only fight war against terrorists in cities, towns and villages, but also arrest the terrorists and gather evidences against terrorists to prosecute them in the civilian courts of law. Unfortunately, police is deeply politicized. Most recruitment’s and promotions in police are on political basis as well as police is not well trained and equipped. Therefore military forces have to fight against militants in populated areas as well.

4. The civilian prosecution system in Pakistan is not effective as it should be. Therefore the cases against militants in civil courts go on for year after year. Henceforth, due to resentment over the progress of terrorism cases in civil courts due to above mentioned reasons, the general public welcomes a set up of military courts for speedy disposal of terrorism cases.

5. From the civil judicial system perspective, military courts are not desirable. However, in the circumstances in which innocents lives are being taken with no mercy, military courts are only solution to provide some remedy to the pain of victims of terrorism. Therefore, those opposing military courts can only do so if the civilian authorities and civil courts are performing their roles at acceptable levels. What critics should be doing is that they should press civilian authorities to set their priorities right and reform civilian law enforcement institutions for the civilian supremacy.

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