Sympathy for a terrorist
Will we be seduced by the appeal of raw and bloody justice? Or will we protect our citizens at all costs?
The production of illegally detained, suspected terrorists in the Supreme Court should have been met with a sense of triumph. Instead, the families of missing persons, who have joined the Amna Janjua led missing persons camp over the past month, as 'sympathisers' of terrorists and militants. On the other hand those who have hailed the Supreme Court's actions have been accused of neglecting the memory of the victims of terrorism and their families.
Things have changed quite swiftly over the past few months.
Then, everyone seemed content with denying that anyone was actually “missing” or that the military and intelligence agencies had anything to do with their disappearance. Today, many argue, quite openly that our intelligence agencies only “pick up” the guilty and if they do so, so what? After all it's in the national interest!
A letter to the editor in The Express Tribune summarised the prevalent sentiment as follows:
And there are instances when those arrested have been found to be involved in attacks on members of the armed forces, military installations and on buildings owned by intelligence agencies. In such instances, cases were filed in the courts but those accused were acquitted.
It appears guilt is determined by the institutional affiliation of the accuser rather than the presumed actions of the accused.
A common criticism is that the courts and judges are incompetent or scared, or worse - both. They are unwilling or unable to prosecute cases involving those accused of terrorism and are in majority of cases acquitted. However, is the solution to limited judicial capacity extra judicial murder and torture? Or is the provision of resources and improvements in the law, to convict criminals properly, a better long term solution?
Another line of criticism against those who question the policy of enforced disappearances includes the sentiment that:
Instead of trying to understand this issue, our media does the opposite and makes a hue and cry over this, and in the end the terrorists benefit. This also lowers the morale of our armed forces who feel that while they are risking their lives to fight the militants, society in general is placing greater value on the rights of the militants.
I find it quite insulting that people believe that extra judicial actions; which are illegal according to the law of the land and which military personnel have taken an oath to uphold, will somehow improve the morale of the armed forces.
I assume that members of the armed forces are serving to uphold the law of the land, which clearly protects the rights of even the worst amongst us. Those who say that we should recall the sacrifices of our soldiers who are fighting terrorism by looking the other way while illegal disappearances continue, do no service to the memory of the brave members of our armed forces.
Perhaps the worst interpretation of the judicial proceedings is the perception of the “rights of terrorists”, as if this is something that the Supreme Court has decided to bestow upon them. There are no rights “for” terrorists, these rights are universal and applicable upon all Pakistani citizens that cannot and should not be selectively applied.
Have we not criticised the United States for its confinement of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and their policy of extraordinary rendition for the very same reasons? Do we not highlight the arbitrary confinement of Palestinians by Israel and Indian forces in Kashmir, accusing them of the very same acts that we justify domestically?
No one is campaigning for the guilty to be released unpunished. The constitution which enshrines certain rights to even murderers, rapists and terrorists, also aims to ensure that these very people face the full force of the law. That people arrested are duly processed, with their families made aware of their whereabouts and granted access to legal representation, does not diminish the states ability to hold them to account.
We as a nation should consider whether the memories of those who are victims of terrorism are honoured by brutal, illegal violence or do we, as a nation, rise above the actions of cowards and apply the law in word and spirit?
Unfortunately, we appear seduced by the appeal of raw and bloody justice, delivered swiftly, rather than making the effort to implement the hard decisions required to build the capacity of law enforcement and the judiciary.
Read more by Nadir here. Follow him @needroos.