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The federal cabinet sent 29 terrorism-related cases to the military courts, making it the first batch of cases to be sent after the tenure of the courts was extended with the passage of the 28th Amendment Bill 2017 in March this year. This was revealed by Interior Minister, Ahsan Iqbal in a Television interview on Friday. 

The cases were sent to military courts a day after COAS General Qamar Bajwa wrote a Demi-Official(DO) to Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, expressing concerns about the fact that no terrorist-related cases have been received by the military courts since January.

Read more: After all its theatrics PPP surrenders on military courts

The military courts were established under the aegis of the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015 commonly known as the 21st Constitution Amendment after the gruesome attack in the Army Public School (APS) Peshawar in December 2014. Till the expiry of its first tenure on 7th Jan 2017, 161 convicted terrorists were sentenced to death. 

Among the most important case in which sentences were handed out include the APS massacre, Safoora bus attack, killing of Sabeen Mehmood, attack on journalist Raza Rumi, Bannu jailbreak, Rawalpindi Parade Lane mosque bombing, killing of foreign tourists at Nanga Parbat base camp, attack on a bus carrying Shia pilgrims in Mastung, shooting down of an army helicopter in Orakzai Agency, attack on a PIA aircraft in Peshawar, Marriott Hotel bombing, Karachi airport attack, sectarian murders and attacks on law enforcement agencies’ personnel and offices, polio vaccination teams and educational institutions.

Iqbal, while confirming the receipt of the letter said that it was answered. He added that 80 more cases, after Cabinet approval, will be sent to military courts. “After this, the interior ministry will not have any more cases pending,” he clarified.

The establishment of the military courts was part of the National Action Plan (NAP), instituted to counter and eliminate the scourge of terrorism by adopting a wholesome approach. The legal fraternity and political forces took and still take serious exceptions to the fact that military courts are working. While many political and legal experts have called it a reflection of the civil-military imbalance, others have raised eyebrows on the ability of civil courts to dispense justice and that too quickly.

Pundits feel that loopholes in the legal system may also terrorists to run scot-free and re-emerge to pose a threat to the state.

Detractors argue that military courts do not give a fair trial. However, watchers assert that the perpetrators of violence should be dealt with mercilessly. Among the most important case in which sentences were handed out include the APS massacre, Safoora bus attack, killing of Sabeen Mehmood, attack on journalist Raza Rumi, Bannu jailbreak, Rawalpindi Parade Lane mosque bombing, killing of foreign tourists at Nanga Parbat base camp, attack on a bus carrying Shia pilgrims in Mastung, shooting down of an army helicopter in Orakzai Agency, attack on a PIA aircraft in Peshawar, Marriott Hotel bombing, Karachi airport attack, sectarian murders and attacks on law enforcement agencies’ personnel and offices, polio vaccination teams and educational institutions.

Read more: Nawaz’s Silence on Indian Involvement in Sponsoring Terror in Pakistan

While the executions cannot bring the martyrs back, the punishments give solace to the affected families. Apparently, military courts contribute towards weakening the ability of terrorists to mount further challenges. While the military targets and kills the bulk of the foot soldiers, courts take the apprehended to the task. Pundits feel that loopholes in the legal system may also terrorists to run scot-free and re-emerge to pose a threat to the state.

At a time when the debate about civil-military ties has become more vociferous, the government pandering to the demand of the COAS may be seen in a different context in the days to come.

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