The military courts under the National Action Plan (NAP) have ceased to be functional since yesterday. The fact that the deadline for expiration has passed without a proper debate on the matter and inability to reach a conclusion on the status of the military courts reflects the lack of cooperation amongst the political parties that are occupying seats in the parliament, and the lag inefficiency can have on legislation, particularly those with sunset clauses.

While the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government has on principle decided to extend the courts for two more years, it could not bring the rest of the political parties on the dialogue table. This failure shows a lack of commitment to the issues that are on the priority list of PTI. If this is how PTI deals with subjects that it prioritises, one can well imagine the fate of the issues that do not make it to PTI’s attention, but yet they are no less significant. While the other parties had and still have reservations on the continuation of the military courts, it is unfortunate that proper negotiations did not take place and deadlines were not adhered to. It is perhaps a sad testament to the parliamentary divide today that they could not negotiate on an issue which is not unresolvable.

Having said this, it is essential to ask questions about the practice of ad-hoc solutions that the ruling parties often stick to for solving complex situations. Seeking justice through military courts is not a permanent solution to make the society free from the menace of terrorism. While the previous government swallowed the bitter pill of establishing military courts in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Army Public School Peshawar (APSP), the present government faces no compulsion to allow operations of such courts. Had the parliament set aside their petty squabbles and comprehensively discussed on the topic, they might have realised that a better solution was to work in close collaboration with the Supreme Court, whose present Chief Justice, Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, is the finest expert on criminal law and a critic of special courts, to find a sustainable solution to the menace of terrorism.

These are facts which were never brought on the floor of the parliament- simply because our legislators could not coordinate with each other to debate on a pertinent topic. Uncertainty and vacuums only upset the legal system- the parliament needs to decide on the question of military courts, and do so after comprehensive deliberation.