Military Justice is to justice what military music is to music”, said an irreverent Frenchman from the last century. As recent events have demonstrated, Frenchmen are not only dangerous, their words and actions are usually insouciant. Since the beginning of time, military men have sacrificed their own lives for Pakistan and only the most thankless souls could raise havoc on the issue of military courts. It is against the ideology of Pakistan to doubt the intentions of the men in khaki, and democracy or rule of law is a very small price to pay in this bargain.

We cannot thank the military enough for the services they have rendered to our nation over the course of our history. It was the military that propped up tribals to claim Kashmir when the time was right (in 1947). It was our valiant army that wrested control of Azad Kashmir from the evil Raja. It was the same army that claimed the state of Kalat when some rogue elements tried to strike at the foundations of our country in 1947 or when secessionist elements tried to create disturbances in 1958, 1973 and 2002. When Bengalis wanted to break Pakistan, the armed forces leapt to the defence of our country and taught the pesky Bengalis a lesson they have yet to forget.

How can anyone forget the bravery with which the army faced the cunning Indians during the 1965 war that was won on the ground but lost at the negotiating table by Ayub Khan? Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history will admit that the military imposed martial laws since 1958 only when the politicians messed up everything. Starting from the early 1950s, the Pakistan army has been called up by civilian administration to maintain peace, to fight dacoits, to control smuggling, to eradicate drugs, to eliminate corruption and to control problem of locusts and wild boars. Despite all these services rendered to the nation, voices are protesting against the establishment of military courts. Military courts are our last hope in tackling the menace of extremism and terrorism. After the Peshawar attack, more terrorists have been hanged on the orders of the military than the number of people hanged by civilians in the last five years.

Military justice is not only swift, but also ruthless. We are not fighting an ordinary enemy and we can’t invoke the principles of due process or similar legal mumbo-jumbo if we want to hang the bad guys. The founder of Pakistan and the dreamer of Pakistan were both practicing lawyers and they would surely have approved the formation of special courts. Khalid Hasan, an irreverent soul accidentally born in Pakistan, provided the following anecdotes about military courts in his columns. These exceptions should be considered enough to prove the rule.

“I love how these courts operate. I remember once going to one of them in Lahore to hear the proceedings which involved a friend. Now this friend, being a man of means and some influence, had trotted out twenty-two defence witnesses to impress the young captain who was president of the court. His honour sat through long, boring cross-examinations of five of the twenty-two witnesses and one could see that he was getting fidgety. He was only human, after all.

Suddenly, he flicked his wrist when the sixth witness was called, looked at his watch and asked, ‘How many more defence witnesses?’ ‘Seventeen, your honour, including this one’, my friend’s lawyer answered smartly. “Five is enough defence witnesses”, the president observed, adding, “This court is now adjourned for twenty-five minutes and will reassemble at 1425 hours sharp. Dismiss.”

We filed out and when we returned at 1425 hours sharp, the president regaled us with a judgement which not only ran into twenty pages, but opened with the memorable line: “The Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, addressing the students at Aligarh Muslim University in 1931 had this to say about the Ideology of Pakistan..” You see, it was that kind of case.

Then there was this party in Gujranwala which, when caught ‘attracting the mischief of Martial Law’, rushed underlings to Lahore to hire the most famous of the city’s barristers. The barrister arrived with a truckload of dog-eared law books and three assistants. God Bless the Major who was in-charge of the proceedings, because he sat through hours and hours of esoteric legal references to Privy Council judgements with patrician grace.

It was a great performance. He [the Major] didn’t even flinch when this smart aleck barrister from Lahore insisted upon addressing him as Milord. Later, the good Major told a friend of mine: “What do you think kept me cool? I’ll tell you. The moment this big bumbler from Turner Road, Lahore, opened his trap, I immediately decided to award his client eight years straight in the jug and a fine of ten lakh or another three years. And do you think I was taking notes during the proceedings? No sir, I was doing my crosswords.”