The introduction of military courts and the re-introduction of capital punishment in Pakistan has been greeted with no shortage of controversy. Members of civil society have noted that military courts are further impeding the growth of civilian institutions by letting taking over key responsibilities such as dispensation of justice, and some have questioned Army’s sincerity in its claims of “zero tolerance” for terrorists and change of direction from a policy that tolerated certain religious extremists that were not considered a direct threat to Pakistan military. In its defence, Army has noted that unlike civilian courts, military courts can take on even the most hardened terrorists without fear of threat and intimidation. Debate will continue, as it should in a democracy, but there is a test case that the military could use to reinforce its side: Mumtaz Qadri.
Mumtaz Qadri is the perfect test case for military courts. The confessed murderer does not present a direct threat to Army like TTP militants, and the target of his attack was not a military officer but a civilian government official. This is also a case that civilian courts have had extreme difficulty in bringing to conclusion due to threats from terrorists. Most importantly, though, by prosecuting the confessed killer, the military would send a strong message that violence and extremism are no longer to be tolerated. It is this type of action that will go far in answering questions about whether Army is capable of taking on every terrorist in Pakistan and confronting the extremist mindset that is at the root of our troubles.