Military Court Victims is Judicial, or Simply Plain Murder
Gull Rukh Khan
August 31: Killing an incapacitated individual without having
secured the utmost legal cover, even in a quasi-civilized society,
is deemed murder and manslaughter. Civilized societies have ceased
to implement capital punishment since long time back.
Friday, August 26, a military court, sentenced five men to death
for their alleged roles in a 2003 suicide plot to kill General
Pervez Musharraf. Four of them are civilians. Questions are: What
jurisdiction that military court has to adjudicate criminal cases?
Since when does we have parallel military courts?
the Supreme Court explicitly struck down Nawaz Sharif’s
attempts to establish anti-terrorism courts manned by military
personnel? What else if this episode not illustrates the reprehensible
supra-constitutional mind set of our military elite?
withholding of the death sentence by the highest judicial venue
of the country is the minimum most prerequisite for the state
for taking human life. Failure to do so is plain homicide which
in turn carries the death penalty for all responsible and involved
must be condemned in all its forms and manifestations. I have
no sympathies at all for anyone who kills or attempts to kill
fellow human beings regardless of political inclinations and so-called
religious justifications. But, it must be stated explicitly that
judicial murders are as reprehensible, if not more, as mayhem
wreaked by contract killers.
far as I know General Field Court Martial is authorized to hand
out death penalty only during the very limited period of ongoing
war - a provision that is still highly controversial and in many
legal circles considered akin to extra-judicial killing. Owing
to the haste with which all the affairs are conducted before the
Courts Martial, setting aside all inbuilt safety valves of the
civil courts, judicial errors are much frequent than is usually
execution of the soldier Islam Siddiqui, 35, in Multan jail on
August 20, accused of involvement in a plot to kill General Pervez
Musharraf two years ago without letting him to appeal against
the verdict handed down by the Field Court Martial in superior
courts of the country was unlawful by any legal interpretation.
decision, action of the state affecting the fundamental rights
of a citizen, what else can be more fundamental than the right
to exist, is open to the scrutiny of the courts.
be noted, I am least interested in discussing his guilt or motives.
The moot point is not his culpability over here. Difference between
justice and cold-blooded assassination is just the accepted norms
of judicial verdict.
have always thought that we are past such summary executions.
Alas, I was wrong. In simple words, hanging of Siddiqui is nothing
but a GHQ-sanctioned murder, COAS-imposed homicide. This is murder
and is as much legally and morally right (or wrong) as Siddiqui’s
and his accomplices’ alleged attempt to blow Musharraf up,
Musharraf’s illegal status and commitment of high treason
the accused was reportedly hanged in the case where there was
not a single minor human casualty and the whole spoof was winded
up in less than 18 months – must be a record in Pakistan’s
checkered judicial history.
in civilian courts, the capital punishment was almost out of question
in the absence of ready-made decision from the GHQ and extreme
external pressure. Judges may validate unlawful coups but issuing
a death warrant without solid legal grounds takes much more than
a result, it wouldn’t be off the mark to claim that this
execution has been taken place by simple administrative orders
of the COAS, and the Field Court Martial rubber stamping the orders
from the top. Of course, a petty NCO, a paltry foot soldier daring
not only to defy the mighty general(s) but attacking them literally
cannot be spared no matter what may come.
enforcement powers must remain behind, and not get ahead of the
law is the foundation of any society aspiring to survive in long
term. Bulldozing the Constitution for political gains is one thing,
blowing it apart for criminal cases is altogether different story.
If we start mangling the Constitution for settling personal scores
where would it end?
all this be taken into account, one can easily see how it happens
that, the action of the regular laws being suspended, military
justice, designed exclusively for time of war, has taken the place
of the civil administration and will start covering Pakistan with
gallows. The demoralizing effect of such a substitution upon the
habits and life of the country needs no commentary.
ideas so forcibly developed by Leo Tolstoy in his pamphlet, "I
Cannot be Silent" can be paraphrased as follows:
the death penalty especially by a field court martial with no
right of appeal, is an evil and a murder in itself which does
not allow the offender time to reform and realize his or her mistake.
the death penalty were to be followed religiously, then most of
the current leaders would have been put to death a long time ago
because of their heinous crimes against humanity.
That such a murder is merely an act of treating symptoms of a
wider national political problem which can be solved peacefully
without a single shot being fired. The problem in our country
is lack of democracy and tolerance of each other's views.
execution of Siddiqui was apparently meant to serve a message
to all and sundry that in Musharraf's Pakistan, disregarding the
top brass is an unforgivable blasphemous sin carrying fatal consequences.
Quite simple, if duly elected prime ministers are hanged for being
insufficiently docile, ordinary souls stand nowhere.
writer has a Master's degree in Political Science and is a Non-practising
lawyer, based in Peshawar