These are testing times for the nation. The scourge of terrorism has hit hard. Even the future of our children is not safe. For the unity of resistance, the time is not right to discuss the causes but it cannot be ignored that the main architects of this mess were two Khaki usurpers: Zia and Musharraf. After a long time, the Army is under the leadership of an able professional soldier, General Raheel Sharif. His statement that Pakistan will be cleansed of terrorism for our future generations is most welcome. It is indeed a test of Khaki resolve, commitment and abilities.

Pakistan has a history of military courts but with very disturbing outcomes. Insaaf is not the domain of the Khakis. It is in fact a failure of the judiciary that the men in uniform will now preside over special courts to deal with terrorists. As the situation is alarming and out of control, the new arrangement is being proposed but it must be shortened and contained considering the past debacles of such courts and their inability to dispense justice.

Ayub Khan’s military courts knocked out the entire political leadership of the country to be replaced with third rate leaders whose exploits the nation faces until today. Prime Minister Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy challenged the Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance (EBDO) and could not be convicted by the Khakis. He was later found dead in a Beirut hotel under mysterious circumstances. Zia’s courts were another disaster; they were called Mobile Military Courts for Summary Trials. Political dissent was punished through this mobile justice. When Justice Samdani of the Lahore High Court (LHC) released Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) on bail in the murder case, he was arrested through such courts.

General Pervez Musharraf, as Chief Executive of the country, pardoned General Zaheer-ul-Islam Abbasi, convicted by a military court for plotting against the government. It highlighted his distrust in Khaki Insaf. The list of poor decisions or even derailment of justice is long and unending; yet the All Parties Conference (APC) with some dissent (PPP, JI, ANP) has recommended setting up of Anti Terrorist Courts (ATC) under the military for a period of two years.

When the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Chaudry was removed by General Musharraf, the civil society and lawyers came out on the streets. It was called the restoration of the judiciary movement. The deposed CJP and Comrade Aitzaz Ahsan defied the government’s crackdown and ably led the movement. There were two long marches; one reached D-Chowk in Islamabad, while the other was called off after the restoration of judges.

No nation can survive without justice; it is the basic building block of a civilized society. As an institution, the judiciary has miserably failed in dispensing Insaf to the weak and exploited segments of the nation. After the lawyers’ movement, the entire judicial process has become non-functional. Mobs have taken over the courts while the judges have been intimidated into inaction.

For a country to function, every organ of the state has to perform and then be held accountable for its performance or lack of it. Bypassing domains does not help. The executive, legislature, judiciary, Khakis have their roles defined. The people of Pakistan have been supporting these white elephants with no tangible relief for them. Education, health, employment, security, even water and food, has become scarce. It is time to fix the causes, not the effects, that engulf us today.

Qazis have to deliver Insaf or face the consequences. The need for military courts may be justified to fix an imminent danger but its duration has to be kept to a bare minimum. One ordinance of ninety days’ duration extendable by another term may be enough to convict the terrorists but then the judicial process should also be streamlined in parallel together with the inefficient prosecution based on the witness of police touts.

Khaki involvement must be contained for the normal functioning of the state. Barracks and borders are where they are trained to perform. Dispensing Insaf or managing universities is not their domain. In order to progress, nations must learn from history to guide their future actions. There is no doubt that the scourge of terrorism originally created by the Khakis has to be dealt with an iron hand which they possess. But nations require national institutions to sustain them. Colonialism ended on August 14, 1947 and the transition to freedom started. It took us nine years to frame a constitution (1947 – 1956) but finally we did succeed. Its abrogation in 1958 derailed our entire democratic journey. It took us seventeen years (1956 – 1973) to frame another document but at the cost of the dismemberment of Quaid’s Pakistan. Again this constitution was disfigured by Khaki interventions in 1977 and 1999.

The Constitution is sacred; its sanctity must be preserved and defended. Unfortunately, the onslaughts on this document of faith for a nation have gone unchecked. Considering the exceptional circumstances, Khaki Insaf for a very limited time period should be acceptable, together with a major overhaul of the judiciary followed by the effective prosecution and implementation of their verdict. Trial, prosecution and implementation have to be performed in tandem for which every state institution has to play its role. The Khakis belong to the barracks and perform their best on the borders; a lesson that must never be ignored or overlooked.

 The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be contacted at fmaliks@hotmail.com