From their war to our war

Courtesy:- Malik Muhammad Ashraf

After hectic consultations between the entire political leadership and military leaders, in the wake of the December 16 terrorist attack in Peshawar, there is now a national consensus on trying terrorists in military courts. 

Accordingly two bills, one to amend the Pakistan Army Act to make provision for trial of civilians involved in acts of terrorism and another to amend the constitution to give constitutional cover to the proposed changes in the Army Act, have been tabled in the National Assembly. Hopefully these bills will be passed by both houses of parliament without any hiccups in view of the commitments made by the political leaders of all the parties represented in parliament. 

The establishment of the military courts, the most important ingredient of the National Action Plan against terrorism, is undoubtedly a necessity-driven initiative to deal with an unusual phenomenon that not only threatens the very existence of Pakistan but also constitutes a formidable challenge to our faith and way of life. Unfortunately the journey from their war to our war has taken more than 14 years and cost thousands of civilian and military lives besides economic loss in the vicinity of US$ 100 billion. 

This was a consequence of the wrong policies of the previous regimes as well as the lack of national consensus on whose war we were fighting and how to go about it. As they say it is never too late. Thankfully TTP apologists, sympathisers, political leadership of all hues, politico-religious parties and the military establishment are all in agreement that this is our war and needs to be fought with unswerving resolve and impregnable national unity. 

Although the Peshawar incident acted as a catalyst to the transformation of the outlook about the war on terror, it is an undeniable fact that the Nawaz-led PML-N government and the military establishment have worked together tirelessly to bring everyone on board on the issue of mounting a serious challenge to militancy and terrorism and have remained in a continuous huddle to devise policies and strategies to eliminate the threat.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which has achieved tremendous success in destroying the terrorist infrastructure in North Waziristan, is a testimony to the success of the efforts made so far in fighting terrorism. Reportedly the entire area of North Waziristan has been cleared of terrorists and there are plans to start the repatriation of IDPs from next month.

Another major contributory factor in formulating an effective and serious response to the threat posed by the terrorists is a paradigm shift in our relations with Afghanistan and US and the tough stance being taken against proscribed entities that have acted as proxies for terrorists. The cooperation of Afghanistan with Pakistan in fighting terrorism and not allowing the TTP to use their territory for attacks against Pakistan and vice versa is a very big development – thanks to a visionary approach collectively evolved by the civilian and military leadership. 

The twenty-point National Action Plan is a comprehensive strategy designed to deal with all aspects and manifestations of terrorism. Pakistan, now having the assurance of the Afghan government to tackle TTP operative based on its soil, is in a better position to deal with terrorism on the internal front. There is no denying the fact that our present judicial system has failed to act as a deterrent for the terrorists, who have mostly escaped justice due to legal and procedural lacunas in the system and a variety of other reasons. 

The reasons include the reluctance of the investigating and prosecuting officers to deal with cases related to terrorism as well as the judges hearing those cases, because of the direct threats given to them by the terrorists, a usual tactic employed by terrorist organisations all over the world to harass and intimidate officials responsible for dispensing justice. Military courts provide the best answer to the inadequacies of the legal system as well as the threat factor. These courts are meant to expedite the dispensation of justice providing fair chance to the accused to defend themselves through lawyers – and nobody would be hanged or punished unjustly or without being given a proper opportunity to explain and defend the charges against him as is being feared by human rights groups and even the legal community.

What the detractors of the military courts and human rights groups tend to forget conveniently is that the country is at war against an existentialist threat. Neither our religion nor any constitution nor the law permits anyone taking up arms against the state. Moreover, human rights are contingent upon allegiance to the state, therefore, any individual or group that act to harm the state lose their claim on fundamental rights. Going by this logic the terrorists or their abettors could be shot at sight or hanged straight away. But nothing of the sort is being contemplated or done. 

The mechanism of dispensing justice through military courts being put in place by the government – despite the fact that terrorists do not deserve any mercy or clemency – will make sure that there is no miscarriage of justice. These courts are meant for specific cases relating only to terrorism and cannot, therefore, be construed as a threat to the existing judicial system or as a parallel system of justice. We already have a number of special courts in the country established under the constitution and the law. The proposed military courts will also have a constitutional and legal backing in addition to the unqualified support of the Pakistani society.

All stakeholders in the future of Pakistan need to contribute their bit to make sure that the National Action Plan against terrorism achieves its objectives as envisioned by its architects. This is not the time for any turf war or for torpedoing the national unity that has been forged to deal with terrorism. This is a now-or-never situation for the country. While we expect the government and our valiant soldiers to spare no effort in eliminating the scourge of terrorism, it is also the duty of all of us to support them in their endeavours in this regard. 

As rightly pointed out by the prime minister and the COAS on numerous occasions, we simply cannot afford to fail. The war against terrorism has to be fought with only one option – to win it. The media has a pivotal role at this critical juncture of our history and needs to act with utmost sense of social responsibility. As the fourth pillar of the state it is bound to lead the fight against terrorism on the ideological front. 

The citizens of Pakistan, who have the biggest stake in warding off the danger of terrorism, also need to extend unstinted support to government and the security establishment in identifying and reporting on terrorists, their abettors and sympathisers dwelling among them.


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