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Military courts: How the reluctant were brought around

Updated Dec 26, 2014 06:11pm


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File photo shows COAS Gen Raheel Sharif during a meeting with parliamentary leaders. — Courtesy: Prime Minister's Office facebook page
File photo shows COAS Gen Raheel Sharif during a meeting with parliamentary leaders. — Courtesy: Prime Minister's Office facebook page

ISLAMABAD: On an assurance by Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif that only “jet black terrorists” who have committed violent crimes will be tried by the proposed special trial courts, reluctant parties like the MQM, ANP and PPP agreed to support the move.

Addressing some of the reservations expressed by politicians, Gen Sharif explained that the military had its own legal system with certain checks and balances which guard against misuse of authority by the officers. Moreover, the army chief added, “the proposed military courts will only take the cases approved by the federal government”.

Military authorities use the term, jet black terrorists, for hardened criminals.

Also read: Political leaders reach consensus on military courts

Sharing with Dawn proceedings of Wednesday’s marathon meeting of parliamentary parties, a participant who didn’t want to be quoted said that during an initial part of the sitting, the MQM expressed its discomfort over the prospect of military courts. The PPP and ANP, too, opposed the proposal.

Senator Aitzaz Ahsan of PPP argued that such courts had no place in a working constitutional democracy. Moreover, he said, the PPP had always opposed formation of such courts as the arrangement had no place in the constitution.

It was Senator Mushahid Hussain of PML-Q who took the dissenting parties head on. Mr Hussain’s argument was that the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto assumed the charge of chief martial law administrator in Dec 1971 because it was a need of the hour. “We have unprecedented circumstances now which call for unprecedented measures.”

Senator Hussain also recalled how anti-terrorism courts set up during the 90s and the recently promulgated Pakistan Protection Ordinance had failed to deliver. “Therefore we have to go for out-of-the-box solution,” Senator Mushahid contended, recalling that the US had also adopted similar measures after 9/11.

Senator Rehman Malik, the former interior minister, however, enthusiastically spoke for the military courts, and according to a government source he also played a key role in convincing Asif Ali Zardari over a telephone call about the need for drastic measures. Syed Khurshid Shah, the Leader of Opposition, was also in favour of the move.

In his remarks, Hasil Bizenjo said setting up of the military courts was being done by a democratically elected government through a constitutional amendment, not by a military dictator, therefore, “we should be rest assured, they will operate within given rules and regulations.”

Aftab Sherpao also supported the decision.

PTI shows caution

The PTI leaders, according to the participant, adopted a wait and see attitude. Once he realised that majority of the participants were in favour of the idea, PTI chairman Imran Khan came out in support of the proposal. However, Mr Khan suggested the government take immediate measures to ban all armed groups across the country regardless of their party affiliations.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif willingly accepted it.

“If we do not set up special trial courts supervised by military officers, chances of extrajudicial killings will increase manifold,” was one of the arguments which were presented during the 10-hour long talkathon of the heads of parliamentary parties that eventually approved formation of military courts to try terror suspects.

It was the MQM which throughout the meeting opposed the decision. The party’s main concern was that since it had suffered in the past because of such measures, it couldn’t support the suggestion. However, it was Prime Minister Sharif, supported by the army chief, who made several attempts to allay MQM’s apprehensions.

More than one telephone call was made to Muttahida supremo Altaf Hussain to bring him on board. Senator Ishaq Dar assured him the government would provide whatever guarantees he sought against the misuse of military courts.

The ANP, another party which didn’t like the idea of military courts, wasted no time after the prime minister addressed Ghulam Ahmad Bilour in a sombre tone: “If we fail this time, neither mine nor your children will forgive us. The ANP has suffered a lot at the hands of these terrorists. So let’s bring them to book.”

Mr Bilour, along with his party senator Afrasiab Khattak, left the room and within no time took the consent of party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, who was not present at the meeting.

According to an official statement, the prime minister has convened a meeting on Friday (today) to discuss implementation of the 20-point resolution on anti-terror measures. On Thursday, Mr Sharif remained busy in consultations with his political and legal advisers to find out how quickly the government could act upon the recommendations which he highlighted one by one in his speech late on Wednesday night.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2014


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Comments (46) Closed

Atif Khan Dec 26, 2014 07:18am

Finally, a resolute Pakistan is emerging.

Lot's of catching up to do. DO NOT WAIVER NOW AND DO NOT LOOK BEHIND.

Our next stop is when: - Overseas Pakistani's visit Pakistan in droves - Investors from Dubai start massive investments - Our sons and daughters can get visa's to travel and study anywhere in the world - Pakistan becomes an International venue for Squash, Cricket, Hockey, Snooker, Soccer - Tourists from Iran, India, Afghanistan, China, Britain, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia frequent our scenic spots, hotels and markets - Our culture and identity is recognized the world over - we are a nation who is at peace with ourselves and our neighbours - And finally, Pakistan catches up with South Korea in economic development (recall, we were at par with S. Korea as recent as 1965).

umer Dec 26, 2014 07:18am

I hang my head in shame. A sad day.

Canada Dec 26, 2014 07:42am

I say that this should be done under two conditions 1) As Gen Sharif said for hardcore terrorists deemed by the govt 2) As IK said that there should be a sunset clause wherein after 4-5 years either the military courts would have to be renewed or eliminated due to no longer being necessary. I hope for the latter and really 5 years is more then enough time to destroy terrorists networks.

Mohammad Akhtar Dec 26, 2014 08:05am

General Sharif nation salutes your courage and determination to wipe out the goons.

Coupe Dec 26, 2014 08:17am

They are all afraid about their own terrorists.

ysk Dec 26, 2014 08:20am

Good stuff. Thats how decisions should be made. Everyone raising voices and concerns and then they are addressed appropriately. Forum aptly used.

ziavrep labqi Dec 26, 2014 08:22am

Most of the political parties have their militant wings, which should be totally outlawed.

Em Moosa Dec 26, 2014 08:22am

Talks, talks and talks. Half of the parliament will be prosecuted in military courts if it is really implemented and most of them from PML-N parliamentarians.

Azad Kashmir Dec 26, 2014 08:48am

Political parties are worried that they might be brought to justice. PMLN, PPP, MQM, ANP, BNP, JI are all failures and most corrupt. Once the terrorists are gone let's bring these parties and Judiciary to justice. All corrupt judges, lawyers, politicians must be held accountable.

ziavrep labqi Dec 26, 2014 09:09am

Senator Aitazaz Ahsan says that military courts have no provision in the constitution. Correct. But can he tell if the constitution provides to deprive the masses of speedy justice, rule of law, safety, security, honour, health care, education, employment, electricity, water, gas, transport and numerous other facilities considered essential for any civilized society? Does the constitution sanctify corruption, nepotism and land grabbing? People like him cling to the constitution only to safeguard their vested interests in looting and plundering this hapless country.They fear that they would not be able to escape justice under military courts.

Amarnath Dec 26, 2014 09:21am

just a cirious question. how many of those in the meeting are doing the bidding for Hafeez Saeed? nothing is going to come out of these meetings until and. unless the most powerful of the militants are brought to the books.

all this would be a eyewash to the common Pakistanis.

Tejaswi Dec 26, 2014 09:24am

This is really bad. You need to strengthen your current law-enforecement system and not to give everything to army.

Bharat Dec 26, 2014 09:26am

Obviously, from the gist, they are not going to change the sponsorship of terrorism on the eastern side On the edge of bankruptsy, and not long for the debt moratorium deadline,Pakistan is near break point

khan Dec 26, 2014 09:29am

It's a good omen that the political parties agreed on something solid to counter terrorism. The government seems to be woken up from the deep slumber. Every political party has suffered a lot in the last fourteen years. Now it's time to put our heads together and find a permanent solution to the menace of terrorism.

Evil Terminator Dec 26, 2014 09:35am

We need to uproot the evil of terrorism from our soil. This is the last chance for both political and military leadership of the country. Go ahead and eliminate the terrorism.

Rao Dec 26, 2014 10:02am

"Mr Khan suggested the government take immediate measures to ban all armed groups across the country regardless of their party affiliations. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif willingly accepted it."

"the army chief added, “the proposed military courts will only take the cases approved by the federal government”."

Looking at these two statements, I really doubt that the terrorists based in Punjab are going to be targetted...

Haque Parast Dec 26, 2014 10:08am

Army operation and military courts were setup in 1992 to apprehend 72 big fish in Sindh. Not a single one of those big fish were every touched however 15,000 innocent men of Karachi were killed. That was not a military Dictator. That was a democratic Prime Minister.. as a matter of fact the same Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Shareef. Any sensible person of Karachi would have his reservation against the military courts. But who care about what people of Karachi thinks anyway. Let's wait and see...

Sunil Dec 26, 2014 10:12am

Hope the military courts does proper justice fairly.

Abdullah Dec 26, 2014 10:35am

these military courts are a must for law and order

Dinesh Singh Dec 26, 2014 10:55am

When India faced problem of terrorism, she created special courts which were supposed to conduct their proceedings in-camera. These courts performed their functions for some time and then were disbanded once situation demonstrated improvement. Judges in these courts were taken from then available judicial setup as no special recruitment was done. These courts were subjected to judicial review by higher courts and they functioned well as there was very little miscarriage of justice. Meanwhile public debates were conducted and policing was increased. This changed the scenario. This is not to say that everything is or was hunky dory, but this was better option than handing over the judicial system to army. Pakistan can learn learn from this experience.

Nayyer Dec 26, 2014 11:24am

Finally a right move in right direction.

Heart Broken Dec 26, 2014 11:25am

@Canada Military courts would be setup for two years.

Dec 26, 2014 11:25am

@Atif Khan Well said.

Yawar Dec 26, 2014 11:41am

“We have unprecedented circumstances now which call for unprecedented measures.” Could not agree with you more Mr. Mushahid Hussein. Now let the TTP call the military and threaten them with dire consequences if the military court convicts their jet black terrorists and we will see what happens...

FAHEEM Dec 26, 2014 11:52am

We need speedy justice, particularly in terrorists cases. So go ahead with true intention.

Confused Dec 26, 2014 12:05pm

Is the army trained to understand the laws of this country? If it is, why are we wasting time training army officers in law when we could be training them in combat. If it isn't than there is no need for military courts.

Abdul Dec 26, 2014 12:22pm

After General Musharraf, General Raheel Sharif seems like a man with guts

Erik Dec 26, 2014 12:38pm

@umer Go and visit Army Public Shame. Your shame will get a shock treatment it needs.

Imran Dec 26, 2014 01:09pm

In a democratic state, there is no place for such courts. Rather parliamentarians ought to work on improving the already installed justice systems which can dispense their services at a fast track.

Abdul Dec 26, 2014 01:14pm

@Atif Khan and even more recently Pakistan became one of the fastest developing economies during Musharraf era

Mustafa Dec 26, 2014 01:33pm

Do you really believe justice will prevail in Pakistan? First CoAS PM interior minister and KP CM should held responsible and taken to court for failure to protect Pakistani Then true justice will prevail? Otherwise this is white wash to save their skin

ashok kumar lal Dec 26, 2014 02:07pm

Can any one dare to disagree with COAS.

Athar Dec 26, 2014 02:13pm

I don't know what the government wants and going to prove, after fall of them the new government will announce their own line, rationalizing to argument the course of actions. I being apart of my Pakistan strongly accept the military courts atleast they know how to handle barbarians!

Bala Dec 26, 2014 02:32pm

If both Pakistan and India stop spending the kind of money they do currently just to protect their borders from each other, a lot of money can be funneled towards development projects. There is a lot to lose for both countries by staying the current course while there is much more to gain through a sensible approach of mutual respect and acceptance of differences. While, we might forever have disagreements, it is best to agree to disagree on some issues and move on further. With a very strong Government in India, after a very long time, this is the best opportunity for both countries to grab. A common economic community spanning India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and perhaps even Afghanistan can create a formidable market force. It is only through investment in education, employment yielding investments and keeping the idle mind busy that the ugly head of terrorism can be wiped off. If opportunities are made available to people to earn a respectable livelihood, it is unlikely that they will be swayed by venomous bigots. Enough has been lost in terms of lives and time. Let us grab the moment and through a workforce of intellectuals from both sides of the border, let us rebuild the South Asian Peninsula into paradise on earth. Why look for paradise through martyrdom when we can put it within reach on earth itself.

Ganga Din Dec 26, 2014 02:43pm

Reluctants were brought around with threats.

Aziz Dec 26, 2014 03:51pm

@Atif Khan I pray and hope to see that day. I also pray and hope that this unity of collective efforts to root out extremism and terrorism continues despite differences among the leaders.

Asgher Ali Dec 26, 2014 04:08pm

@Atif Khan - Atif Saheb....I love your dream....It has been mine too since the turn of events in 60s, 70s and thereafter. I would be the first to return and smell the wet soil of Pakistan.

John Dec 26, 2014 04:09pm

@Azad Kashmir including PTI who wanted TTP offices opened.

Haroon Dec 26, 2014 04:29pm

Day of shame for Pakistan and another step in the soft coup by the military. The same army that has nurtured the terrorists in the first place has now turned judge, jury and executioner. Pakistan does not have any selfless leaders, be they military or civilian, they all run their own mafia protecting their narrow self interests.

Asif R Mughal Dec 26, 2014 06:39pm

Justice and only justice is the solution,if it prevails then there is no harm.

Rightist Dec 26, 2014 08:28pm

History repeats itself ? another military rule soon?

anony Dec 26, 2014 09:37pm

Well done General Raheel. We are all with you.

ali Dec 26, 2014 11:27pm

seems the newspaper/ media, ppp, mqm, anp, juif have serious reservations about military courts .... but they are least bothered for the safety of common people, no matter what.

millions of Pakistanis have voted for above mentioned parties since 1947 and yet these leaders are not trying to let us live in peace.

Zak Dec 27, 2014 08:31am

In Pakistan, the armed forces have delivered, the politicians have failed. Politicians excel in corruption.

Zak Dec 27, 2014 08:42am

@Confused army have their own laws and these terrorists have attacked the very institution that protects the nation, then these criminals hide behind the lackadaisical civil justice system.

Ehsan Dec 27, 2014 11:34pm

@Bharat, It's nothing new. Whenever the Afghanistan is under occupation, Pakistan suffers. And for you Mr Bharat, I have one advice look at the 80s newspapers you will see worse. We saw the backs of reds and soon the blues will follow. I don't think that we Pakistanis can find anythin good from you guys.