Friday, February 27, 2015

Fraying civil-military judicial relations in Pakistan?

There's an interesting additional subplot to the controversy surrounding Pakistan's new military courts. So far it has seemed that on the one hand, the government has moved aggressively to present the Supreme Court (before which 13 Constitutional Petitions challenging the 21st Amendment are pending) with a fait accompli by a show of activity towards getting the new courts up and running, while at the same time retarding the Supreme Court's process by pretending not to have realized that it had been ordered to submit a concise statement of its position to the Court, while on the other hand the civilian anti-terror courts have made a show of activity to move some cases ahead.

The latest wrinkle in this arm-wrestling match seems to be that the High Courts have refused to make their judges available to serve as magistrates for the taking of statements in military court cases. As background:
The home department made a reference to a letter received from the Pakistan Army’s 5-Core Karachi Office, dated February 15, wherein it was stated that military courts have been established in light of the recent constitutional amendments for trial of accused persons, who were involved in heinous offences. It was further said that prior to the commencement of the trial, some of the accused wanted to voluntarily record their confessional statements under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The home department was asked to ensure nomination of judicial magistrates to record the statements of the accused.
According to this article (quoting an unnamed judicial official), “All the high courts raised similar objections to the requests, asking the home departments to approach the relevant district and sessions judges to name their subordinate judicial magistrates for the military courts to record the confessional statements of the accused persons.” The civilian courts are not going quietly.

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