Speedy Trial Military Courts


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Starting implementation of the 20-points ‘Anti Terrorism Action Plan’ Pakistan’s political leadership has agreed to introduce an amendment providing constitutional cover to set up speedy trial military courts to curb the terrorist activities in the country. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif played very positive role to convince all the political leaders attending All Parties Conference (APC) at the Prime Minister House at Islamabad by removing their initial reservations. Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif and ISI Chief Gen. Rizwan Akhtar were also present in the APC. There is no room for further debate as all the Parliamentary parties have agreed to set up special courts after a long debate. The Information Minister has told the media persons that the amendment bill will become part of the Constitution as soon as it is passed by both the houses.

Speedy trial military courts are being established to try the terrorist criminals for the alleged crimes within a reasonable time after being arrested as there are no laws in civilian courts that set forth the time in which a trial must be completed. Our judicial system is absolutely rotten. Does our existing system provide equal treatment to rich and poor? The simple answer is unfortunately, No. By punishing poor even on petty crimes, our existing system ignores the crime of the rich, rather provide shelter to them. White collar criminals who plunder hundreds of billions of rupees, pushing the poor towards terrorism are routinely let go, while poor are put behind the bars for years for small street crimes. It is not a matter of doubt that the superior judiciary allows the ruling elite to flow from their decisions.

Three special courts have already been established in Peshawar, Lahore and Quetta under the Pakistan Protection Act 2014. Two more special courts are to be established in Karachi and Islamabad. However, according to this legislation the Government is fully empowered to establish as many special courts as required to run the system smoothly. Although Fundamental Rights like property, movement, residence, expression, association, freedom of speech, profession and personal liberty etc. as enshrined in the Constitution restrict the law making power of the Parliament, yet keeping in view special circumstances prevailing in Pakistan demand special actions to be taken by the Government.

The increase of arbitrary or discretionary powers of the administration is unchecked. It is very sad the people of Pakistan are constantly cheated and lied to by the Government. Their words now mean absolutely nothing. But unfortunately there is no check and balance system to take them into account. The Government officials and even the Government itself are not above the law. The Rule of Law provides the basis of judicial review of the administrative actions. Absence of discretionary powers and absence of inequality needs to be ensured by the courts. But the courts usually don’t dare to control the administrative actions. The concept in Pakistan is of equality in the eyes of law and equal protection of laws. Any legal wrong committed by any person would be punished in a similar pattern.

The judiciary is supposed to dispense justice according to law. It must act quite independently without any fear and favor. The judges must be honest having courage and integrity. Unfortunately during the last about seven decades the judiciary has absolutely failed to satisfy the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. The corruption in Pakistani system is well known to everyone, but also well hidden from our courts. The abuse of public departments for private gains is also hidden from the eyes of our courts. An impression is now prevailing in the country that justice is a purchasable commodity and the people who administer it can be tempted, a common man has a strong feeling that he has no forum to look into his grievances. The rich and privileged class commit many crimes but are protected by the unjust judicial system we live in. The poor are disproportionately caught up in this system and the poor suffer injustice which provides a fertile ground for extremist forces. Corrupt judicial system in Pakistan not only violates doctrine of equality before law but also deny Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the constitution causing anger and revenge amongst the poor.

Our judicial system is muddling along as it has been for decades, failing to address the corruption and other crimes in any meaningful way. The system as exists is not at all functioning. In spite of all of our pledges it is undeniable fact that we have the most dishonest, dangerous and crooked legal system which has breed several other horrible evils including the menace of terrorism we are facing today. In Pakistan corruption and terrorism are deeply linked, both need to be dealt with together. Pakistanis are denied a better standard of living due to institutionalized corruption in the country. Now they are even denied their right to live in a terror-free country. It is time to fully crush all the root causes of injustice and chaos in the society. We should reform the system to ensure that people of Pakistan are provided with the services they need. There is an urgent need of a comprehensive revamping of judicial machinery. We must have an efficient, non political, dedicated, honest and upright judiciary. The judges should be fearless enjoying trust and confidence of the nation. They should be allowed to work in such a way that the people are assured of fair and equal justice.

Immensely worried on delay in prosecution and punishment to those found in terrorist activities and other connected crimes, the Army Chief has asked the Federal Government to constitute special courts to fast track the process of bringing them to book. Had the normal courts from lower to upper level removed the flaws in dispensation of justice, there would have been no need to set up military courts. If normal courts are no working up to the mark and given the ongoing terrorist attacks throughout the country, there is no alternate left except setting up speedy trial military courts for coping with the present situation. The rationale of setting up these courts is merely to dispense speedy justice which is demand of the day, and not at all to undermine the judiciary itself. Corruption cases also need to be trialed in special courts. Unless culprits are prosecuted and punished speedily, the terrorism in different shapes will be going on. Supreme Court of Pakistan, considering the current scenario, should strengthen the military courts and reject the petitions raising voices against the proposed legislation.

Shaukat Masood Zafar
Shaukat Masood Zafar
A well known freelance columnist writing for daily Pakistan Observer, and several other national and international websites and newspapers. Economy, Politics, and Agricultural & Rural Development are especially areas of his interest.


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