Saturday, May 23, 2015

Some sober thoughts from Pakistan

"I was and remain opposed to military courts. There are many reasons for my opposition, which I have listed in my writings. But just to recap some, the issue of poor prosecution, ostensibly the reason for setting up military courts, is not about what a judge does or doesn’t do. In a trial, the judge is as good or bad as the prosecution is. If that is how it works then unless the military can also provide from among its ranks thousands of prosecutors — which it can’t — it doesn’t matter if you put someone in uniform in the judge’s chair instead of the black robes. Also, higher courts have tended to overturn verdicts by ATCs because the anti-terrorism courts tend to overlook the fine print of law. There is also the issue of deterrence. If we want to prosecute and sentence to death terrorists, then it is legitimate to ask the question of why the over hundred death-row prisoners that have been hanged to death by now have such high percentage of those who were involved in murders, even if they were sentenced by ATCs. Why have we stopped executing hardcore terrorists. Why did the Interior Ministry put out a notification that it was lifting the moratorium on death sentence overall without informing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or consulting with it. I do not believe in the absolutism of those who are opposed to the death sentence per se, though I respect their views and I think they have some very strong arguments. But equally I find it abhorrent that others should take pleasure in hanging people by the neck till they die, as if taking someone’s life is a mere trifle, which it is not.

"I realise that there is a sunset clause for military courts. But I believe that too many of us conceded to the 21st Amendment too soon and too easily. The Amendment is an act now but that should not stop us from continuing to debate the issue."

Pakistani columnist and security analyst Ejaz Haider, interviewed in The International  News

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