When the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted and the military was invited to invade the judicial process and set up military courts, the nation and human rights groups were assured that only “jet-black” terrorists would be executed. Since then, it seems the term “jet-black” does not involve militants with the clout and influence to wipe out evidence against them. In other words, within the parallel society of hardcore terrorists, there is a militant elite that cannot be touched, and that we have seen consistently acquitted by anti-terrorism courts. Inside a process absolutely devoid of transparency, with first details of executions reported via two-part tweets, a process that silently and conveniently ignores men like Lakhvi and Mumtaz Qadri, Sufi Muhammad , chief of the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) and father-in-law to Mullah Fazlullah has had 16 terrorism charges against him dropped (all of which were registered under the Anti-terrorism Act), by a special anti-terrorism court in Peshawar. The sedition charges against him have been moved to a sessions court in Swat, which is by and large, as good as an acquittal.

TSNM was declared a terrorist outfit and banned in 2002. Sufi Muhammad has been under arrest since 2009. His son in law, Mullah Fazlullah, leader of the banned Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has headed the TSNM in the absence of Sufi. And yet, it would seem that despite these facts, Sufi Muhammad cannot be labeled a jet-black terrorist, whereas petty thieves and underage criminals can. Is it not common sense to assume that a man heading a banned terrorist organisation is by definition a terrorist? A “jet-black” one at that? Under the vast jurisdiction and obscure conditions of the Protection of Pakistan Act, Sufi Muhammad is absolutely a terrorist. Yet he will walk free in Swat, because the state could not produce a shred of evidence against him. How is this possible? It only proves that the Anti-terrorism court is not powerful enough to do the job it is tasked to do. It does not have the means, the empowerment, perhaps even the will, to do the real dirty work. It is one thing executing nameless, anonymous militants. It is entirely another thing taking a mastermind with the family clout of Sufi Muhammad to task. It is a travesty that every terrorism charge against him has been rubbished. In doing so, the anti-terrorism courts have rubbished themselves.