Defending military courts is tantamount not only to shrugging off responsibility for the recent breakdown in law and order, but also to undermining civilian supremacy in general
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) takes strong exception to the recent resolution passed by the National Assembly calling for the rioters involved in the 9 May violence to be tried and convicted under the Pakistan Army Act 1952.
“Of concern are the use of the words ‘without a delay of even a single day’ in the resolution, which seem to imply that the government is willing to sacrifice the right to fair trial, transparency and due process on the altar of political expediency.”
HRCP believes that all those who grossly abused their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and engaged in arson, vandalism and destruction must be held strictly to account. Nor should this accountability be applied arbitrarily to relatively easy targets in the form of low-ranking party workers and bystanders. Regardless, the process must take place under civilian laws and in civilian-run courts where fair trial standards are far more likely to be upheld than in military courts, a statement said.
Moreover, contrary to the resolution’s claim, civilians tried under the Pakistan Army Act 1952 do not have the right of appeal to civilian courts, whose role is restricted to exercising narrow powers of judicial review in such cases.
In the long term, as HRCP has warned successive governments time and again, defending military courts as a quick solution is tantamount not only to shrugging off responsibility for the recent breakdown in law and order, but also to undermining civilian supremacy in general.