Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A plea to reform Pakistan's regular justice system

Mosharraf Zaidi has written an eloquent op-ed arguing against another extension of Pakistan's military courts' power to try civilians. Excerpt:
The cost of military courts is continued and unending rot and decay in the country’s courts system. The benefit of military courts is a speedy trial and conviction and hanging of less than five dozen terrorists.

In what universe is this a bargain that makes any sense? Military courts are not an effective killing machine – our police and armed forces have done and continue to do a remarkable job of finding and killing terrorists. The availability of military courts offers no compelling basis for their continuance.

Now imagine a Pakistan without military courts. I would fully expect that in the absence of these courts, a parade of security and law-enforcement officials would express anxiety about the potential freedom of the terrorists that they capture and put in jail, in anticipation of trials that take too long to happen, in courts whose judges lack the stomach to announce death penalties for jet black terrorists.

The solution to this legitimate anxiety would be to reform the courts. Maybe wholesale reform would be too difficult. But reforming and reframing the anti terrorism courts system is a much more fathomable domain. Even narrower would be the provision of court premises that blind convicts to the identities of judges. Narrower still, the enactment of legal provisions for high security and higher pay for judges and court staff who have to take higher risk.

All of these solutions would strengthen Pakistan, whilst contributing to the efforts of our soldiers and spies in our continuing war with terrorists. It is time for the military courts to end.

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