A military court in Pakistan shocked the world on Monday by sentencing a former Indian Navy officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, to death on terror charges. Pakistan military claimed they had arrested Jadhav on March 3, 2016 through a counter-intelligence operation from Mashkel, Balochistan for his involvement in “espionage and sabotage activities” against Islamabad. However, it is also believed that Jadhav was kidnapped by Taliban from Iran and sold to Pakistan’s ISI. Last year, a Garman ambassador had said he was informed about the collusion of Taliban and ISI for trapping Jadhav. Not only this, an Iranian ambassador had also claimed that Jadhav was innocent.
In a bid to prove that Jadhav was a “terrorist”, Pakistan Army released a video confession of the Indian. However, the video is heavily edited. Jadhav didn’t get a fair trial, which anyway doesn’t make much sense to the military courts of Pakistan.
Here are a few things you should know about Pakistan’s military courts, which functions just like courts of a Banana Republic.
Kulbhushan Jadhav is not the first victim, many Pakistanis have been victimised by Pakistan’s military courts
According to a report on Pakistan-based Dawn.com, a man named Sabir Shah had disappeared from Lahore Central Jail in April 2015. Information about him came after five months when Shah’s family was informed by ISPR that he was sentenced to death by the military courts. Shah was first arrested on murder charges and even as he was facing a trial in a civilian court, he was mysteriously shifted to a military facility.
The report says that Pakistan’s Supreme Court had called for reconsidering cases against 16 civilians, who were tried by the military courts, last year.
Brief history of Pakistan’s military courts
Pakistan’s military courts were first set up in January 2015 for a period of two years after a terrorist attack on Peshawar Army Public School (APS) in which 144 people, mostly children, were killed. They were disbanded on January 7, 2017. However, the military courts were revived again for a period of two years on March 30, 2017, after the country’s president Mamnoon Hussain signed Pakistan Army Act 2017 and the 28th Constitutional Amendment Bill. Both laws were passed separately by the Pakistan National Assembly and Senate.
Secrecy is the hallmark of Pakistan military courts
Secrecy is the hallmark of Pakistan’s military courts. Nobody gets to know about the convicts, charges framed against them or what are the defence presented by the convicts.
Military courts are barbaric
Rights bodies and even the legal fraternity of Pakistan consider that military courts violate fundamental rights of people. “Military justice is justice denied and military courts have never been, nor will be, the answer to terrorism,” Rasheed Rizvi, president of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), was quoted as saying by PTI in March.
Rizvi had termed military courts as “extreme law, extreme justice”.
Army wanted to extend military courts’ tenure
Pakistan’s Army wields enough influence on the civilian government of the country that it gets whatever it demands. Reportedly, Pakistan Army wanted to continue the military courts to try more militants. Within 10 days of extension, it has shocked the world by sentencing an innocent Indian to death.
Supporters of military courts say that they deter people from doing violent acts.
275 trials, 161 sentenced to death and 116 jailed, mostly with life terms in two years
In two years, Pakistan military courts have sentenced as many as 161 people to death and jailed around 116 people, mostly with life sentences.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) April 10, 2017
Who can be held for trial by Pakistan’s military courts
According to Dawn, any person can be held for trial by the military courts if he has attacked military officials or centres, kidnapped someone for ransom, possesses explosives firearms etc, killed or injured somebody etc.
The political leadership of Pakistan is still divided over the need for military courts. Even after Jadhav was sentenced to death, the opposition parties said they had no prior information about it as everything was done secretly by the military establishment.