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Friday, May 31, 2024

Trials under Army Act: Netizens react to military’s strong stand against protesters

Ever since the Pakistan military's top brass released its statement vowing strict action against violators who attack military installations, netizens expressed concern over civilians being tried under the Army Act.

Top military brass’ decision to take strict action against protesters and their abettors under local laws — including the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act – has sparked a strong reaction from netizens on social media.

Ever since the Pakistan military’s top brass released its statement vowing restraint will no longer be exercised against violators who attack military installations and setups under any circumstances, netizens have weighed in on civilians being possibly tried under the Army Act.

The decision came during a Special Corps Commanders Conference (CCC) held at the General Headquarters with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir in the chair, according to a statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

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To clarify, Pakistan Army Act is applicable to military personnel and not the general public. However, in exceptional circumstances, the act may be invoked to address certain offenses committed by civilians if they fall within its jurisdiction.

On May 9th, violent protests were triggered in Pakistan after PTI Chairman Imran Khan was sent to jail in the Al-Qadir Trust case. Clashes erupted between protestors and the police authorities which also resulted in attacks on state and military property, for instance, the GHQ.

In response, the corps commanders deliberated upon the recent law and order situation that a political party’s leadership exploited for political gains and vowed to deal with them in the strongest possible terms, which includes justice through trial under relevant laws of the country, including Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act.

However, netizens expressed concern over civilians being tried under the Army Act as it could set a dangerous precedent. Netizens also expressed worry that trials under Army Act could also take Pakistan closer to martial law.

Should civilians be tried under Pakistan Army Act?

Civilians should generally not be tried under the Pakistan Army Act because the act specifically pertains to the regulation and discipline of military personnel within the Pakistan Army.

A fundamental principle of a democratic society is the separation of powers between the military and civilian institutions. The Pakistan Army Act falls under the purview of military law, which is distinct from civilian law. Trying civilians under military law would blur this separation and undermine the principles of civilian governance.

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Civilian legal systems are designed to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals through fair and transparent processes. Trying civilians under military law may deprive them of these protections and potentially lead to a violation of their rights.

Lastly, maintaining public confidence and trust in the judicial system is crucial for a stable and harmonious society. Trying civilians under military law could erode public trust, as it may be perceived as an encroachment on civilian rights and an overreach of military authority.