The federal government has decided to withdraw its earlier proposal for the establishment of military courts after the army suggested that it wanted to focus solely on the ongoing operations against militants instead of getting involved in judicial matters.
Following the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, which killed 141 people including 132 children, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif disclosed that military courts were being established for the swift trial of terror suspects.
However, a senior government official told The Express Tribune that the idea was now being given a second thought in the wake of reservations by the army.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was not possible for the army to carry out judicial work given that security forces had already been overstretched due to the ongoing operations in tribal areas.
The army instead proposed the government to address shortcomings in the existing judicial system that often allows hardcore terrorists to go scot-free, the official added.
Col (retd) Inaamur Rahim, who served in military’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch, noted establishment of military courts would be a “burden” on army.
He explained that a lot of time, energy, manpower and focus would be required for military courts.
“But in present situation it is not possible for the army to focus on judicial and complex legal side,” commented Rahim, who was also coordinator of military courts in 1997 before the Supreme Court turned down Nawaz Sharif’s decision to form parallel judiciary.
The executive should not put this burden on the military, he added.
Besides the allegation of parallel judiciary and trust deficit in case of military courts, it would further enhance security threats for army, he argued.
“I am optimistic military leadership will decline this offer,” he added.
According to Inaamur Rahim, under the Pakistan Protection Act, federal government should establish anti-terrorism courts for the speedy trial of terror suspects.
The parliamentary committee, which was formed to chalk out a national plan of action after the Peshawar massacre, is expected to debate the issue.
The army, according to sources, is also seeking amendments in the current law of evidence that allows terrorists to get the benefit of doubt from it.
One proposal is that onus of proving innocence should be left to the suspects, who are arrested from the areas of operations against the militants.
The army is believed to have been also pushing for taking strict action against religious seminaries, which are not registered with concerned authorities.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2014.