Even the proponents of military courts concede that they are not ideally suited for equitable dispensation of justice, which is promised by the country’s constitution. Several lawmakers expressed their concerns as they reluctantly passed the 21st amendment to set up military courts following the Peshawar incident. Since reforming the criminal justice system was too much work, which would have required effort and time, the politicians yet again decided to take the traditional route to solving problems: let the military take care of it. Explain why it is a necessity of time, discredit the judiciary, throw in a sunset clause, and it is done. Now that they have been established and are functioning, it is important to ensure that they do someone else’s job to the best of their abilities.
For now, the process remains shrouded in mystery and secrecy. DG ISPR Asim Bajwa tweeted on Thursday: “#Mil Courts: Army Chief confirms death sentence of 6 hard core terrorists tried by the recently established military courts.1/2.” The second tweet stated: “#Mil Courts: Were involved in heinous act of terror, men slaughter, suicide bombing, loss of life & property. Have right to appeal to court.”
Trials are carried out in complete secrecy and sentences, it seems, may be announced on Twitter by the military spokesperson. Do the convicts have names? Which terrorist organisations did they belong to? What evidence was produced to convict them? Why do these basic questions, whose answers ought to be readily available to the media as well as the general public, remain unanswered? What exactly is the rationale behind this secrecy? Is it security, which was used to justify their establishment and will now be used to excuse their modus operandi? Is this lack of transparency by accident or by design? Accidents usually lead to exposures, not concealment.
Indeed, it is necessary to try terrorists and punish them for their many crimes against the state and the people. However, the process should not disregard the constitution. The constitution guarantees a free and fair trial for everyone, which includes “hardcore terrorists”. Those seeking transparency to ensure that principles of justice are upheld and constitutional obligations are met should not be accused of harboring sympathy for murderers or their ideology. The relationship between state institutions and the people is not maintained by unwavering faith or blind trust as some demand, but by consistent, unapologetic accountability. It is hoped that the process is made more transparent to ensure that there are no miscarriages of justice in pursuit of the same.