Sunday, December 11, 2016

Pakistan's courts

Dawn has this worthwhile story about the demise of the Protection of Pakistan Act (POPA) courts and the transfer of their cases to Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATCs).

The POPA courts were created in 2014 with a two-year sunset, and indeed went out of business -- without having completed a single case. A good question is whether the same thing will happen to the military courts' authority to try civilians under the 21st Amendment, which expires in a few weeks. Those courts, unlike the POPA courts, have completed numerous cases, leading to death sentences and executions -- and a variety of still-pending judicial challenges in individual cases. The 21st Amendment trials are conducted in secret and reveal a shocking pattern of guilty pleas and waivers of the right to counsel.

So the country now has the 21st Amendment courts (for how long?), the ATCs, and the regular courts. So far as we can tell, no steps have been or are being taken to ensure that the regular courts are in a position to provide speedy, fair trials. Why not?

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