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Military tribunals revival.

Though a true democracy does not need military tribunals to try and punish civilians accused of terrorism, in Pakistani setting where criminal justice system is not that effective and where there are many lacunae in its implementation, such an arrangement is perhaps need of the hour to speedily dispose of terror related cases.

Military courts' need was acutely felt after the grisly terror attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, that claimed many an innocent life of students and staff in a strike which change the course of the national anti-terror mechanism in Pakistan.

When the push for setting up army tribunals gained support, the political parties which had initially expressed reluctance bowed down. Amendments were enacted to the constitution and the Pakistan Army Act. During their course, the military courts did award death and life punishments to some of the hardcore militants, but many cases could not be done away with as the courts' two year period came to a close in January 2016.

As these courts were part of the National Action Plan, theirs seizing to function resulted in a recurrence of militant attacks across the country in recent past, which put a question mark on the effectiveness of NAP. Thus the calls for recourse to the mechanism to deal with the terror threat.

As before, the Pakistan People's Party opposed the revival of military courts for trying the terror suspects, and put forward a set of conditions for their revival. And after a series of parleys with the federal government the party has reportedly agreed to restoration of the tribunals. The PPP's major concern centred on the use of tribunals to victimise political opponents. The PPP's demand that the courts should exist for only two years has been accepted.

The other two major parties: the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf have been the two main forces behind the push for reviving the military courts.

As these lines are being written the two bills: one seeking 23rd amendment to the constitution and the other to the Pakistan Military Act will have been passed by the parliament, paving the way for restoring the military courts in the country to deal a "final" blow to the menace of terrorism.

But, again it is troubling to mention here that how long we will seek solace from a mechanism that, in its essence, is a blot on the smooth functioning of democracy. One way or the other, we will have to reform or criminal justice system and ensure that judges pass judgments without any fear or threats to their lives.

Some political parties fears that tenure of these tribunals would keep on extending should be taken seriously as any long term existence of military tribunals would encroach upon the functioning of regular courts. Such a scenario will also be unhelpful for the Army either as it will divert its focus from the more pressing assignments.

What we need to do is start at once the much needed overhaul of our judicial system. We cannot afford to contract everything to the Army. Let the Army do its job and let the civilians do theirs. That's where the solution lies.

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Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Mar 31, 2017
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