- And that sunset clause
Everybody agreed to military courts after the Peshawar school tragedy because of very serious, yet straight forward reasons. One, there was an urgent need for the perpetrators to feel the fury of the state and people in the swiftest possible manner. Two, the criminal justice system – overloaded, broken down and corrupt as it is – was simply in no position to bear the burden of rapid terror trials. And three, it was important to rule out the possibility of judges and witnesses feeling threatened by hardcore criminals. That, precisely, is why the parliamentary sanction came with a sunset clause.
Yet any hopes that the system would correct itself were quickly dashed, and an extension was needed by 2015. But it was only grudgingly granted. Now, though, the government feels the need for yet another extension. But isn’t that a tacit admission of failure on part of the state to address most if not all the issues the courts were supposed to correct? Besides, the statistics that have come out four or so years of these military trials – extremely high conviction and confession rates – are cause for concern in themselves.
Then there is the other extremely urgent matter of the state narrative; which was supposed to counter decades of public indoctrination and educate people out of extremism and fanaticism. Sadly, no advances have been made on such fronts. And the state has continued to rely merely on extension of military courts to combat terrorism. Perhaps it is time to let the conventional judicial system play its part. It has to step up to the plate sooner or later. And if it displays the same urgency in pursuing terrorism cases that it does in hunting corruption leads among politicians, we might cover more ground than pessimists think possible. Let the sun, then, set on military courts.