While hearing petitions against the 21st amendment and the formation of military courts to try terrorists, the SC asked the federal and provincial governments to file their views on the points raised in the petition. The attorney General submitted a reply on behalf of the federal government maintaining that the military courts were the need of the hour and the constitutional amendment made to give legal cover to the military courts was time-specific which would become ineffective after two years. He maintained that making an amendment in the constitution in response to changed circumstances was prerogative of the parliament and the setting up of military courts did not usurp the powers of the judiciary. The provincial governments in their replies have also taken identical positions and defended the necessity and rationale for the said initiative. The unanimous view taken by the federal and provincial governments on the issue is really very reassuring and in consonance with the call of the circumstances the country is faced with. The National Action Plan orchestrated in the backdrop of the APS attack in Peshawar with the support of all the political forces represented in the parliament, the government and the military establishment, is truly reflective of the will of the people, who want the elimination of the scourge of terrorism at all cost.

The country faces existentialist threats from terrorism and religious extremism; an extraordinary situation demanding extraordinary measures to deal with. The decision to set up military courts and providing them with legal cover through a constitutional amendment was indeed a very difficult step taken by an elected government as admitted by the Prime Minister. The response to the burgeoning terrorism firmed up in the form of the National Action Plan (NAP) through the collective wisdom of the nation is the best and undoubtedly the only recipe available to rid the country of the menace of terrorism and religious militancy. Defending the integrity of the country and our way of life is of paramount importance. The steps taken by the government of Pakistan is not out of this world. History is replete with examples where nations have resorted to extraordinary and even extra-constitutional steps in similar situations to save their countries.

Under the circumstances, it was obligatory for all the stakeholders for the integrity of Pakistan and its state institutions, including the judiciary, to work in unison to save Pakistan. This task can be accomplished through the unruffled implementation of the NAP with impregnable national unity. Any action or conduct to the contrary is likely to create fissures in society to the advantage of the enemies of the country. It is hoped that the judiciary will deliver its verdict in the best national interests exercising restraint which is an internationally recognized principle of jurisprudence.

It is indeed reassuring to note that the civilian and military leadership is determined to take the war against terrorism to its logical end through the implementation of the NAP uncompromisingly. The seriousness and commitment that they have in this regard is amply demonstrated by the continuous consultative process between them on the implementation of NAP and participation in the deliberations of the provincial apex committees charged with the responsibility to implement NAP and monitor its progress. The PML (N) government headed by the Prime Minister deserves to be complemented for introducing the culture of continuous consultation between the government and the military leadership on matters of security and other vital national issues. That explains and justifies watching the Prime Minister and the COAS often in a huddle discussing and taking decisions on the implementation of NAP. This development augurs well for meeting the challenges faced by the government. However, a certain lobby within the media and the intelligentsia looks at this phenomenon from a different perspective. They are relentlessly trying to create the impression that the high profile involvement of the military in national affairs represents a soft-coup and that it is the military establishment which is calling all the shots with regards to fighting terrorism and security issues within and beyond our borders. I think that is a skewed view of the prevailing situation and the responses that it requires. At the moment the political and security issues are so inextricably intertwined that it has become almost difficult to draw a clear line between them. Consequently handling those issues collectively and sometimes swapping roles with each other becomes necessary, as in the case of COAS’s visits to Kabul and China recently. But the fact remains that the credit for these actions and initiatives goes to the executive as the Army is part of it and constitutionally bound to implement its decisions. The military has indeed made unparalleled sacrifices for defending the motherland and in the war against terrorism and deserves unqualified gratitude and accolades of the entire nation.

We simply cannot afford to retract from the decision that we have made to fight terrorism or show any slacking in the implementation of the NAP. The only option available is to win this war. It is gratifying to note that the anti-terrorist polices firmed up by the government and the new narrative on relations with Afghanistan have already started showing dividends with regards to taking care of external dimensions of terrorism and making a new beginning in relations between the two countries. We need to consolidate those gains through national unity and the unswerving commitment to eliminating terrorism. It is therefore imperative that all those parties and religious outfits who supported the NAP and are now trying to undermine the national unity through different antics and pretexts, to revisit their stance and lend their unstinted support to this national effort. They are better advised to feel the pulse of the masses and stop acting like spoilers. Politicking can wait for better times.

The government and the military leadership are on the right track with regards to eliminating terrorism and are determined to implement NAP with or without the support of dissenting voices. The new initiative against terrorism has been appreciated at the global level as well and the international community is supportive of this effort. It has also helped in refurbishing Pakistan’s image as a responsible member of the global community and removed the usual misgivings about its commitment against terrorism. On the internal front for the first time, people have started believing in the righteousness of the cause against terrorism and seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. With that hope and confidence, God willing, we may be able to ward off the existential threat posed by terrorism.