Just as the military courts are about to begin proceedings, having received the first batch of 39 cases from the government and having selected 12 for trial, the Supreme Court (SC) is taking up the petition against the 21st amendment and establishment of the military courts. The contrast between the actions of the two judicial establishments must be noted, for they seem to substantiate many reservations regarding the undemocratic establishment of military tribunals.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk was supposed to hear the initial concise statements from the provinces and the federal government before it could be forwarded to a full bench of 17 judges for the main hearing. In true governmental fashion –one that resembled the shameful delaying tactics employed regarding the Local Government polls – the government said it needed more time to prepare its replies. Apart from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, none of the attorneys had prepared their replies; hoping to drag the case on by miring it in technical difficulties. The SC was forced to give 10 more days for the preparation of cases, despite the fact that it could see through the ruse, despite the fact that the matter was of utmost importance and exigency; for the judiciary cannot bypass constitutional safeguards regarding procedure, even if it would have been beneficial to do so. All in the interest of fairness.

Contrast this with the military courts, which will operate without established rules of procedure, without legal precedent and without qualified, impartial judges. Even now, the cases it has decided to try concern attacks against army personal and positions. The courts could have taken up attacks against minorities, secular and human rights activists, yet it chose to focus on its own ranks in a display of institutional retribution. How are we not to assume that the proceedings inside the courts will be equally biased and self serving? One court delivers justice, the other delivers results.