History teaches us that whenever a state is faced with an insurgency like the one in Pakistan, all key institutions are required to perform their respective roles in order to overcome the challenge. The importance of criminal justice system with regards to curbing terrorism cannot be highlighted enough. Whereas the job of law enforcement agencies is intelligence gathering, operations and apprehension of suspects, the judiciary is ultimately responsible for convictions, provided the prosecution has done its homework.

Currently, the prosecution rate is ridiculously low for a country engaged in an undeclared war. Apart from poor evidence-gathering and familiar glitches in the system, fear of personal safety has played a significant role in letting terrorists get off scot-free. Considering this, the attack on the District Courts Complex in Islamabad where lawyers and a session judge were specifically targeted will likely make matters worse.

Why would lawyers or judges be eager to convict a terrorist knowing that their lives could be snatched away as a direct consequence? Most people are open to taking risks only when they feel that the state is doing one thing or the other to protect them. That their families will not pay for their lawful decisions. No such guarantee exists as of now.

In response to the attack in Islamabad, the lawyers’ community boycotted court proceedings on the call of Pakistan Bar Council (PBC). While one can appreciate their loss and concerns, a boycott is surely not the best way to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the line of duty. If all victims of terrorism stopped working, then the whole country will come to a halt considering no has been spared. Lawyers must realise that they are not as powerless as the common man. After all, they are men of the law, and it is the law they must rely on to rectify wrongs. Instead of essentially boycotting the courts as protest, one would have hoped the legal community would turn up in full force instead. There would be no better tribute to the fallen.