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National

January 4, 2015

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Military courts a bitter pill or step towards greater democracy?

ISLAMABAD: The setting up of military courts is like swallowing a bitter pill for the political leadership. However, for the military spokesperson it’s a step towards “greater democracy”.
Something is seriously wrong somewhere. The politicians are not keen to improve the existing flawed, inefficient, incompetent and unresponsive criminal justice system, leading to the creation of military courts. On the contrary, the military’s keenness to issue political statements is worrisome.
Whether right or wrong, the top political leadership has agreed to amend the Constitution to pave way for the speedy trial of hardened terrorists. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, the military courts would now try “black” terrorists to check terrorism and lawlessness. Most of political parties were reluctant to go for this option but they all had to agree to this post-Dec 16 terrorist attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar. Despite bitter experiences in the past about the military courts, all led by Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and including all key figures of country’s politics including former President Asif Ali Zardari, Imran Khan, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and others, reluctantly decided to set up military courts to try hardened terrorists.
After series of meetings, marathon discussions and exchanges of notes, the decision has been taken to amend the Constitution. The prime minister burnt the mid-night oil to reach the consensus. Apparently, the issue stands resolved, but in actuality the problem — an incompetent and corrupt criminal justice system — is still there.
While signing for the creation of military courts, all the politicians led by Nawaz Sharif have basically admitted to their failure and incompetence to improve the criminal justice system of the country. Why the kind of resolve we have seen for the creation of military courts has always been missing whether we talk about the present regime or the past government.
Fundamentally,

nothing much could be achieved through the military courts if the present criminal justice system is not revamped and overhauled to meet the expectations of the people.
Presently, it is said that only the hardened “black” terrorists would be tried by the military courts. Then the questions arise who would then try those who sexually molested and killed a 7-year-old in Lahore on Friday, who would punish the killers of two innocent children of 5 and 6 years of age whose bodies were found in a nullah in Lahore? Who would hang the rapist of a five-year innocent girl in Lahore, who would try and punish target killers, murderers, qabza and bhata mafia, corrupt and others?
You can’t refer every case to the military courts for summary trial. The government has to improve its criminal justice system on a war footing. Why the prime minister has no time and no interest for this despite the fact that it hurts the public at large.
From the lodging of FIR to police investigation, prosecution and judicial proceeding, the whole system is massively plagued in favour of criminals, violators of law, corrupt and mafias.
Some believe the military courts’ solution might not stand the test of judicial scrutiny but others argue that how could the judiciary overlook its own failures and the failures of criminal justice system. Pakistan direly requires a viable and sustainable solution to enforce an efficient, competent and responsive criminal justice system.
Military courts might be a transitory and odd choice for politicians, but in no way it could be termed a service to democracy and constitutional rule.
The ISPR DG Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa may not like it, but his latest statement that formation of military courts is a step towards “greater democracy” is unwarranted and uncalled-for. He has to inform the media about the military’s professional matters, but overexposure in the media and too many statements and tweets including those issued in the middle of high-level meeting of political and military leadership, are bound to raise many eyebrows and generate controversies.

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