The sun has set on the controversial military courts, and it seems to have done so without much ado. Pursuant to the two-year deadline inserted in the original legislation, the 11 courthouses across the country have shut down, and pending cases will now be transferred over to the civilian Anti-Terrorism courts. Apart from a few half-hearted and disjointed calls for legislation to continue the military courts, there has been no real attempt made at doing so. It seems that political parties, and most importantly, the military is satisfied with this limited experiment. Now all that remains is for us to objectively evaluate the results of this exercise in judicial outsourcing.

Any objective inquiry, however, runs into a brick wall at the outset. The military courts operated entirely in secrecy, and the only information available to the public was what the military chose to reveal through Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). As such, not only do we not have any independently verifiable information, the information itself is limited in terms of depth and detail.

What we do know at the moment is that since February 2015, a total of 274 individuals have been convicted in military courts, out of which the army has sentenced 161 individuals to death. While the names, affiliation and exact crimes of many have been withheld, we are told that several perpetrators of high-profile attacks such as APS Peshawar and Bacha Khan University have been convicted.

Taken at face value these convictions are valuable. Considering that the courts operated during a time of intense military activity in the tribal region, quick and decisive convictions of dangerous terrorists was necessary.

But these quick convictions came at the cost of procedural propriety. Suspects had no right of appeal to a civilian court, were not given complete legal protection in several cases, and were presided over by judges who had little or no legal education. Combined with the secrecy the courts conducted itself with, the implication was quite clear - the military courts were a place where you were taken to be quickly processed, not where you could expect a free and fair judicial hearing with all the modern trappings.

The usurpation of the judiciary’s role by a branch of the executive was also a dangerous precedent that has now been firmly and constitutionally set. Furthermore, the initial argument that that this time will be used to reform the judicial system is now meaningless as the government did practically nothing to overhaul the civilian court structure.

In the end the military courts need to be seen strictly as a product of their time and extraordinary circumstances, not as a quick fix that can be made a habit of in the future.