The failure of judiciary to successfully try and convict terrorists resulted in the creation of military courts. This has gained widespread approval, but it faces serious questions both about the constitutionality and also the wisdom of handing more responsibility to the military at a time when it is busy carrying out operations to root out terrorist groups. However there is another issue which has not been widely discussed which is that military courts will eventually be faced with cases that could call into question the military’s credibility.
Civilian courts may have proven that they are not up to the task of convicting terrorists due to threats and intimidations. Military courts may be free of this burden, but they carry other burdens besides. Take the missing persons cases. Civilian courts have been almost completely blocked from moving forward with these cases due to the resistance of military and intelligence agencies. If these cases are taken up by military courts, can anyone expect the outcome to be unbiased? The problem is, even if the military court is completely objective, its decisions will always be under suspicion because the military has a vested interest in the outcome. Same can be true of cases against alleged terrorists like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi who are members of groups that are widely believed to have or have had support from national agencies. Whether or not it is true is actually besides the point. What matters is that even if someone like Lakhvi is innocent, by acquitting him a military court will look like it is biased, and its credibility will be unnecessarily tarnished.
Supposedly the US has called for turning over suspects like Lakhvi to India, but this is obviously ridiculous. No Pakistani suspect could ever receive a fair trial in India. However, there is another option which is to refer the cases to the International Criminal Court. This is what Ukraine has done, turning over evidences against alleged terrorists to the ICC and allowing the independent judiciary to give a fair and unbiased judgment. By following suit, Pakistan would not only be able to successfully prosecute terrorists, but convictions – and acquittals – would be above reproach because there could be no claim of favoritism or bias by the international tribunal. Civilian courts would be able to return their attention to decided cases required by the common man, and Army would be able to devote its energy and resources to fighting terrorists.
Despite supporting the aims of the International Criminal Court, Pakistan is one of few remaining countries that has not signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and refuses to cooperate with the Court. It’s time to change that.