Military Courts are Essential to Eliminate Terrorism

By Sajjad Shaukat

Pakistan’s armed forces have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the successful military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad which have also been extended to other parts of the country, including Balochistan. While, Pakistan’s primarily intelligence agency, ISI has broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts. But, in the recent past and during the election-campaign of 2019, blasts in Balochistan and other regions of the country showed that the US-led India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started acts of sabotage especially to weaken Pakistan and to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is part of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative or BRI. Washington and New Delhi has already opposed this project. Foiled terror attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi on November 23, last year was part of the same scheme. In another terror-related incident, on the same day, at least 35 people were killed and 50 wounded in a blast in Kalaya area of lower Orakzai district in Hangu.

It shows that military courts are essential for complete elimination of terrorism from the country. In this respect, in the recent past, the law ministry informed a National Assembly standing committee that summary for second extension in military courts has been forwarded to the federal cabinet for approval, as the two-year term of the courts will expire in March 2019.

The military courts were allowed to try civilians accused of terrorism in January 2015, soon after a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar (APS) in December 2014. In the attack, 144 people, mostly children were martyred by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

Military courts were given a two-year constitutional cover as both houses of the parliament passed the 21st constitutional amendment. The courts remained dysfunctional from January 7, 2017 due to expiry of the two-year constitutional cover—till March 2017, when the military courts were extended for another two years by the parliament.

On December 13, last year, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak had informed the National Assembly that the military authorities had to decide 185 cases of terrorists in three months—till March.

A leading newspaper of Pakistan reported on January 25, 2018, “The opposition parties are working to come out with a combined response on the extension of the constitutional amendment, continuing the powers of the military courts…a senior opposition leader told…everyone is willing to join hands to become a formidable force as they are pushed into a scenario where they have no other option…in case the opposition decides to support the extension as one force, it will seek a foolproof timeframe to enable the criminal justice system in a phased manner to be in a position to speedily proceed against the terrorists…During out talks with the government side, we will make concrete proposals to improve the civilian justice system so that there is no need of military courts after some time…Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Sanaullah told this correspondent…Our effort will to make our suggestions part of the constitutional amendment so that there is no subsequent deviation from them…One proposal is that the opposition should agree to just one-year extension of military courts. Initially…A PML-N source told that there were two opinions in the party which have been discussed. One view is that the military courts should be extended while the other runs against it and stresses that when there has been significant fall in terrorist activities because of the concerted operations of the law enforcement agencies, there is no further need to have the military courts in place…leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif was conscious of the publicly aired opinion of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) against the constitutional amendment. He said that at the same time, the PML-N president wants the opposition parties to show harmony on the extension of military courts.”

However, there is a co-relationship of military courts and war against terrorism. In this connection, word “opportunism” is very renown in world of Politics. Opportunism is the conscious policy and practice of taking advantage of circumstances with little regard for principles or with what the consequences are for others. In the present circumstances, opposition parties are not opposing extension in the term of military courts, but making efforts to achieve a bargaining position. Pakistan Army was not seeking extension in military courts for itself, but in the larger interest of masses in order to ensure peace in the country. PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari along with her sister are facing very serious cases including plundering the national exchequer. Although they seems to be in favour of military courts, but currently, they want to use it as a bargain chip to get all the corruption charges from them, removed. Same is true in case of the leaders of PML-N—the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif, including some other leaders of the party, who are facing corruption-related cases in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), as Sharif family also wants to make controversy over the extension of the military court so as to use the same for bargaining purposes in relation to their cases.

Nevertheless, the political leaders of these parties forgot that on January 2, 2015, besides the chiefs of other political parties and military top officials agreed on a draft of legislative measures which paved the way for establishment of special military trial courts. It was unanimously agreed that the 20 points (National Action Plan) enunciated in the All Parties Conference (APC) Resolution of December 24, 2014 was being acted upon—the bill as 22nd (Constitutional) Amendment was enforced soon after its approval from the parliament. The special military courts had been established and the ruthless terrorists facing death penalty were being hanged.

These political elements are reminded that the National Action Plan (NAP) includes important points—execution of convicted terrorists, establishment of special trial courts, ensuring no armed militias are allowed to function in the country, strengthening and activation of National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA), countering hate speech and extremist material, choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organizations, ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organizations, establishing and deploying a dedicated counter-terrorism force, taking effective steps against religious persecution, registration and regulation of madrassas (Religious seminaries), ban on glorification of terrorism and terrorists organization through print and electronic media, FATA reforms, dismantling communication networks of terrorist organizations, measures against abuse of internet and social media for terrorism, Zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab, taking the ongoing operation in Karachi to its logical conclusion, Balochistan reconciliation, dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists, policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees, revamping and reforming the criminal justice system.

These hostile entities should know that corruption is the essence of terrorism. Hence, people want that this menace must be eliminated from the country as part of overall war against terrorism.

In this connection, without any discrimination, several persons, politicians and government servants involved in corruption have been arrested in various parts of the country.

As regards of madrassas, in 2015, a meeting of military, political and religious seminaries had vital importance. All the participants reached a mutual consensus. While assuring unconditional support to NAP, representatives of madrassas, Ulema (Religious scholars) said that culprits and black sheep in religious institutes should be dealt with iron hands. They agreed that “Pakistan is our motherland. We on our own have to protect its integrity.” They also agreed for reforms in the religious schools through introduction of new curriculum, registration, and funding process. Earlier, the chief ministers agreed to all the proposals put forth by the interior minister regarding important issues including regularization of affairs of NGOs.

It is noteworthy that in October 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan made a pledge to resolve the issues of madrassas on priority and accordingly held a meeting with top leadership of all the federations of the madrassas in Pakistan to develop understanding and trust for this purpose. Now, the unveiling of National Education Framework indicates that the government is serious about the madrassas issues. Hopefully, the Ittehad-e-Tanzeemat-e-Madaris Pakistan (ITMP), the representative body of all the administrative setups of madrassas, will fully cooperate with the government this time and an inclusive education system will come in place.

The demand and need for madrassas reforms have always been felt by the religious scholars and Dars-e-Nazami was itself prepared as a reformative measure 300 years ago. It is outdated and it cannot meet the challenges of modern education system. The scientific subjects and vocational/ technical training must be integrated with the religious curriculum of madrassas to uplift them in standards. As madrassas are catering the educational needs of 3.5 million students, according to some estimates, the modernization of their curriculum on scientific lines will be beneficial for everyone including the administrative bodies of madrassas.

Notably, according to the report of National Action Plan (NAP)-June 14, 2018, “Military courts in Pakistan have sentenced 186 terrorists to death and issued verdicts for more than 300 terrorism-related cases. Another milestone achieved by NAP was strengthening of National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA)-an anti-terrorism institution established by the parliament in 2013 with sole mandate of countering extremism and terrorism in country. Regrettably, it remained un-effective until it was made part of NAP. Following the zero tolerance policy after the APS attack, NACTA pursued its mandate and jurisdiction with unparallel vigour and scribed the policies addressing the state’s goals in countering terrorism. A special budget of Rs. 1545.5 million was allocated in 2016-17, and in 2017- 2018 Rs. 1643.019 million was demanded, however only Rs. 530.839 have been released. A Joint Intelligence Directorate has also been staffed in NACTA for the purpose of enhancing coordination and intelligence sharing mechanism among the provinces.3 NAP has also taken a rigorous stance in dealing with the matter of sectarian violence, religious intolerance and extremism. As a result, 1373 cases were registered after 2014 regarding hate speech and publication of literature inciting religious sentiments. Around 2,566 persons were arrested against 1373 cases and 70 shops were sealed. Moreover, 19,895 cases have been registered pertaining to misuse of loudspeakers, 20,679 persons were arrested and 8,759 pieces of equipment have been confiscated.”

Nonetheless, in order to dismantle the terror-financing networks, eradication of corruption is an important part of Pakistan’s National Action Plan, while military courts are also essential to eliminate terrorism from the country. Hence, instead of making these courts controversial, the members of the mainstream political parties who are sitting in the parliament must give approval to the extension of military courts with the sole aim of elimination of terrorism from the country, which is demand of every patriot Pakistani.

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