News Analysis |
The Supreme Court has disposed of the Suo Motu case pertaining to the unfortunate 2014 Army Public School carnage after the judicial commission’s briefing. In the horrific attack on Army Public School on December 16, 2014, the militants killed 131 students and 10 other individuals- making it the most deadly attack in the history of the country.
Following the application of APS Martyrs Forum –led by mothers of victims– CJP who had taken the Suo Motu in April 2018, ordered the formation of Judicial Commission to probe into the matter in October 2018. As the hearing went underway today, Advocate general Khyber Pakhtunkhwa apprised the court that 147 testimonies had been recorded but another 109 were still pending; without which, the report could not be furnished.
The advantage of MC is the dimension of security it provides. Earlier, Judges and magistrate were being threatened by the militants whose cases were taken up by the regular courts.
CJP then wrapped up the Suo Motu case, directing the authorities to submit the commission report in the court once witness statements were recorded. Pakistan witnessed the horrendous act of terrorism on Dec 16, 2014, when militants attacked the Army Public School; the bloodbath shook the nation and government formulated the National Action Plan (NAP) to firmly counter the terrorists. Not just NAP, the spate of terrorism led to the formation of speedy military courts (MC).
Military courts were suggested by the political circles after the heinous militant APS attack in 2014. Following the 21st amendment, which was passed by both houses of the parliament on January 6, 2015, after a long debate, MCs were set up getting a green signal from All Parties Conference. Two year extension was given with the inclusion of sunset clause when on March 31, 2017, President Mamnoon gave his assent to an amendment in the Constitution granting legal cover to military courts.
According to the Dec 16, 2018, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release, since the establishment of the courts, the federal government had referred 717 cases to them. Five forty-six (546) out of these 717 cases had been finalized by the military courts. Out of these 546 finalized cases, 310 terrorists had been awarded the death penalty while 234 were awarded rigorous imprisonment of varying durations ranging from life imprisonment to 5-year imprisonment. Two accused had also been acquitted.
Out of 310 convicts, Fifty-six (56) people have been executed after completion of a legal process which included their appeals in superior courts and rejection of mercy petitions both by the army chief and the president. Execution of the remaining 254 terrorists is pending completion of the legal process in higher courts.
The extension of MCs is due now; political parties appear to be more divided than ever before as National Assembly has already started a debate on the extension of MC. Pakistan Peoples’ Party has protested strongly against the due extension.
The Peshawar High Court (PHC) in October 2018 set aside convictions of 73 persons convicted on terrorism charges including suicide attacks and killing of security personnel and civilians. Although initially cases like murder based on personal vendettas were also sent to MC but were disregarded and MCs specifically dealt with cases involving terrorism against the state.
The advantage of MC is the dimension of security it provides. Earlier, Judges and magistrate were being threatened by the militants whose cases were taken up by the regular courts. For military courts, judges come from the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch and courts are established on undisclosed locations where no one including media is given access; hence, the officers as well as witnesses can’t be threatened.
However, the criticism and objection, especially in the legal community, on MCs is that they do not follow full process of the law and accused gets limited rights. MC examines the facts presented by the prosecutor and if a defender can’t refute the facts, he gets convicted and ultimately punished accordingly. Though, a review petition can be filed by the convict in the high courts and supreme courts, diluting the authority of the Military courts
The extension of MCs is due now; political parties appear to be more divided than ever before as National Assembly has already started a debate on the extension of MC. Pakistan Peoples’ Party has protested strongly against the due extension. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman PPP lamenting the MC extension has said, “I will oppose the extension of military courts’ laws at every forum.” Analysts believe despite the criticism and objection, it is highly likely that military courts will be extended for the third time.