Why Can’t We Keep Terrorists In Jail?

Get out of jail free

A new report in a British newspaper terms Pakistan ‘incapable’ of prosecuting terrorists. The report makes this claim based on a new US State Department report, so it is sure to be dismissed as evidence of American anti-Pakistan propaganda. But we should take this claim seriously, not because the Americans are saying it, but because of who else is.

I wrote last year about our topsy-turvy justice system in which terrorists have more rights than honest citizens. I wrote this piece after a report in Daily Times found that 75 per cent of anti-terrorism cases were acquitted.

Whenever there’s an acquittal, like the revolving door that Hafiz Saeed uses to get in and out of jail, militant sympathisers say, ‘if there was evidence, they would have convicted so he must be innocent’. In a properly functioning judiciary, this would be true. But anyone who believes that Pakistan has a properly functioning judiciary probably lives in UK or Dubai and has never actually had to deal with Pakistani courts.

Just to play the ‘devils advocate’, let’s assume they are right. The fact that there are 75 per cent acquittals means that one of two institutions is failing badly – either the courts or the police. If the courts are properly functioning and all these innocents are being brought up on terrorism charges with no evidence, why are the police arresting the wrong people? And what can we do to improve the police competencies so that they start arresting the right ones?

But let’s also consider the possibility that the police are arresting the right people, and that revolving doors for terrorists are built into the courts. I suggest that we consider this not because the US State Department says it’s a problem, but because China does. As I noted before, Chinese media reports that militants are getting acquittals by threatening witnesses, the police and courts themselves.

Militants groups in Pakistan are being proven so strong that they manage the acquittal of their colleagues from cases and proceedings against them in courts by threatening the families of judges, witnesses and police officers, local media reported on Tuesday.

and

“This is a common practice in Pakistan, not only Taliban even small criminal groups use these tricks to get their friends free from the courts, when there is no proof or witness, the court will have to free them,” said Khalid Mahmood, a former police office in Punjab Province.

“Now in some cases, judges’ names are kept secret and they hear the case proceeding in jail with covered faces to avoid any recognition by the accused,” Khalid told Xinhua.

Xinhua is China’s official state media which represents the official line of the Chinese government.

I said last year that for honest citizens who only want to get some small amount of justice in their lives, the wait can be forever. For militants, though, it is always a speedy trial and ‘get out of jail free’. What kind of a topsy-turvy legal system is it that gives more rights to terrorists than to honest citizens?

It’s time to stop the revolving doors that spin terrorists in and out of the courts. Not because America says so or China says so, but because our inability or unwillingness to prosecute terrorists results in the deaths of innocent people. Seal the revolving door. No more excuses.