Critics hit out at establishment of Pakistan military court

Prime Minister Sharif says measures needed to 'root out terrorism' reporter, Islamabad
January 7, 2015
Rights groups and political analysts have criticized a decision by Pakistan’s parliament this week to establish military courts to try terrorism suspects, calling the move a quick fix that would not solve problems plaguing the country’s legal system.

The measure comes in the wake of the Taliban massacre that left 152 dead, 132 of them children, at a military-run school in Peshawar.

The military courts would be part of a 20-point anti-terrorism plan announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in late December. The country has also lifted a moratorium on the death penalty, potentially opening the door to hundreds of executions.

Lawmakers on Tuesday voted in favor of setting up the military court with a two-thirds majority.

Prime Minister Sharif told parliament the anti-terrorism measures were “extraordinary steps for an extraordinary situation”.

"The nation has decided to root out terrorism and terrorists and throw them out," he said.

"The nation must not have any fear of terrorists,” he said. “We will not sit contented till the last terrorist is killed.”

The prime minister said the military courts were aimed only at militants and would only operate for two years.

"We have to move forward in unison by supporting each other and the mess will be cleared in two years," Sharif said.

The government, he said, would approve each case to be heard in the courts.

Rights groups and political observers have criticized the move.

Security and political analyst Rasul Baksh Rais said the civil and military leadership must not look for quick fixes to deal with the menace of terrorism.

“Every time an incident like the Peshawar school attack happens, we create an emergency situation and introduce hasty legislation,” the political science professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences said on Wednesday.

“We must not stop at establishing military courts alone and address the larger issue of reforms in the judiciary and the criminal justice system,” he said.

“Terrorism can be eliminated by working on a long-term plan to curb growing extremism in society.”

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In a statement on December 26, just after the establishment of the military courts was first muted, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan voiced concern, calling it a hasty decision.

“The Commission is dismayed that all political parties supported this unfortunate decision,” it said.

“The decision undermines the judiciary and shows lack of confidence in an independent and strong judicial system in the country.”

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