Monday, February 27, 2017

A gutsy admission in Pakistan

Mosharraf Zaidi has written a gutsy op-ed for The News International admitting that he was wrong to support Pakistan's 21st Amendment. Excerpt:
. . . The case for these courts doesn’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny from a rule of law, transparency or due process perspective. I knew all this on December 27, 2014 and yet I still expressed public endorsement of these courts. I owe my readers an apology for this. It was bad judgement. I am sorry. 
Why am I sorry? I can easily conceive of morally defensible arguments to run roughshod over due process to achieve an urgent outcome. I have a strong enough constitution to be able to grapple with moral ambiguity or even contradiction. Public policy is complicated business, and it is most complicated in a place like Pakistan, at a time like the post-APS scenario. So my mea culpa is not inspired by the procedural, rights-based, moral or ethical arguments against military courts. 
I made a mistake in supporting military courts in 2014 because the existence of military courts creates the space and time for the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches to delay the necessary legal and administrative reforms our country desperately needs. 
I made a mistake in supporting military courts in 2014 because the existence of military courts empowers the military in a civilian domain, and we can’t keep whining about the civ-mil disequilibrium on our Twitter timeline, while handing the military more powers on our Facebook pages. That’s called mixed signals. It is bad form. 
I made a mistake in supporting military courts in 2014 because the existence of military courts is an easy and convenient way for our civilian system – administrative and legal – to escape scrutiny and responsibility for its epic failure to provide timely justice to society in general and to the victims of terror in particular. 
One should learn from their mistakes. The proposal to extend or re-initiate military courts in Pakistan as an instrument of countering terrorism, or countering violent extremism, or improving the quantum of justice is a bad idea. It does none of the things it is supposed to do. It only delays an inevitable conversation about reform. It is an escape hatch through which this country’s elected and unelected, military and civilian, in-power and in-opposition leaderships seek to escape serious and difficult processes of reform. 
We must not make the same mistakes that we have made before. I apologise for supporting military courts in 2014, and I oppose their establishment in 2017. I hope both civilian and military leaders will examine the mistakes they have made in 2014 and thereafter, and seek to avoid the same mistakes in 2017.

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