Weeks from the Sehwan Attack, the debate over the revival of the military courts is still ongoing. The revival is principally agreed to by all parties, that much is clear. The extent of the revived tribunal’s powers and jurisdiction is still being fiercely contested – mainly by the Pakistan’s People’s Party (PPP). On Sunday, party vice president Sherry Rehman stated that the PPP can support the extension to military courts if (the government proposed) draft law “looks nice and is logically amended”; the opposition is in no rush to pass the law and neither should be the government.

This urge for a more measured and deliberated draft is in everyone’s benefit. The military courts did not have a perfect track record the first time, and many questions remained over its denial of a free and fair trial to the accused – this aspect can certainly do with some fixing. Even more troubling is the open ended jurisdiction of the courts in the new draft of the law, which would theoretically allow it to try anyone charged under the Anti-Terror laws, not just “hard-core terrorists” as was originally promised.

There are fundamental problems that need to be fixed logically, rushing through them will not make counter-terrorism operations better, nor can it be rushed through; the bill would require a joint session of parliament to pass, and the PPP’s support is necessary for such a constitution amending piece of legislation.

However, it seems that the state – the government and the military establishment – are intent on pushing this through at all costs. Opinion pieces and statements by state surrogates and government representatives are dismissive of these concerns, saying that constitutional protections do not apply to terrorists, since they claim they are not bound by the law anyway, or saying that their heinous crimes make them forfeit their right to be treated like other citizens.

These are trite and superficial observations, not based on any accepted legal norms. Individuals are innocent until proven guilty, and need to be treated as citizens, even if just until their guilt is proven. This is what separates a legitimate government from a tribal band; the former applies its laws in a fair and consistent manner. We may use the whole weight of the state to crush these groups but still they cannot be extra-judicially killed, tortured, or denied a trial. That amounts not only as contravention to our constitution but also amounts to international war crimes.