PAKISTAN: “Terrorism and militancy cannot be thwarted by military courts” – Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid

This is a second interview in a series of interviews by the AHRC which seeks views and  comments from jurists on the amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan to establish military courts.

Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, former judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan criticized the establishment of the military courts in order to curb terrorism in the country and said that these courts are a result of a unilateral decision of the military establishment to expand its influence in the affairs of the State. Justice Zahid is a renowned jurist and is currently the Dean of Faculty of Law at Hamdard School of Law and is also the Chairperson of Legal Aid Society, an NGO dedicated to helping poor prisoners in the Sindh Province.

In an interview he stated that the setting up of the military courts is nothing new in Pakistan. He elaborated that this tactic is used time and again by the elected government, who is losing its mandate amongst the masses, to maintain its writ. ‘There is absolutely no need for the establishment of such courts, when you have an independent judiciary” he said.

Justice Zahid fears that the move may subsequently lead the nation into another status quo of martial law. The nation is led to believe that the armed forces will save the day and thus another martial law is the need of the hour in the guise of the doctrine of necessity. All State institutions are not allowed to function independently and their failure to function is used as a pretext to meddle in their affairs. Justice Zahid was also of the opinion that the military courts are the harbinger of the military rule as we have on two previous occasions in the recent past. 

Justice Zahid feels that the establishment of the military courts cannot help curb terrorism. “It is foolish to believe that terrorism and militancy can be thwarted by these courts. Unless we tackle the root causes of the problem we cannot expect results. Intolerance and injustice is so entrenched in our society that it will be difficult to tackle the situation. The religious sentiments of the people are used by the mullahs to advance their own vicious motives. The State and the citizen will have to work together to alienate the terrorist factions from its midst. 

Upon being asked to comment on the measures that the Government of Pakistan should have taken instead of establishing military courts, Justice Zahid said that the Government should streamline and strengthen the present judicial administration system as a whole including specifically the police (investigations); the prosecution; and the judiciary. There are various Law Commission Reports such as the Pakistan Law Commission Report on the subject, where remedies have been pin-pointed. “What is required now is the actual implementation of the recommendations of such reports by the State”.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-011-2015
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Administration of justice, Corruption, Impunity, Inhuman & degrading treatment,