On Monday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan presented a lengthy, 182-page decision on the legality of several cases decided by the recently constituted military courts , marking the end of a long advocacy process and the first time the apex court has ruled on the subject. In the carefully worded document, the Supreme Court rejected all 16 appeals of the terror convicts set to hang.

The 5-member bench, which included the Chief Justice, Anwar Zaheer Jamali, reasoned that the appellants were unable to prove that the convicts were convicted without sufficient evidence, and that on the facts of the case the appellants seem guilty – saying that it saw no sufficient proof of a breach of procedure.

While it may be contended that the apex court focused on the appellant’s apparent guilt more than the question of correct procedure; with the Supreme Court’s decisions, fears may be allayed of the correctness of the rulings handed down by the military courts . A fact that becomes more pertinent when we consider the convicts were involved in clear cut and heinous terrorist activities such as the Army Public School attack, Parade Line bombing in Rawalpindi, the Bannu jailbreak and attacks on army convoys and installations.

But this does not – and should not – equate to a thumping endorsement of the establishment of the military courts .

Granted, the courts in Pakistan have been reluctant to sentence several dangerous criminals whom the judiciary was afraid to tackle. It has also been argued that the bravery needed was only demonstrated by the military courts .

Which begs the question, is that the way our future judicial matters will be arranged – divided between the military and the civilian, both with overlapping jurisdiction and both functioning under different rules of procedure?

The obvious conclusion is that such a solution is overly complex and ultimately untenable in the long run. The circuitous route taken by the Supreme Court in its rationale, and the lengthy decision highlights the legal and constitutional difficulties posed by such ad-hoc courts. Neither did the Supreme Court endorse the courts as a viable and permanent alternative. As it stands the equation is such; the military courts can legally try and convict terrorists during the period of active military operations, but once its constitutionally defined period is over, the sole judicial power will and should return to the judiciary – a trained, experienced and legally literate judiciary.