There is no denying the fact that a military legal system is never the preferred option viz a viz the normal civilian judicial system in a democratic era. But in these extraordinary and most difficult times when the country faces an existential threat from determined terrorists and speedy anti terrorism courts failed to deliver for a variety of reasons, then the state must act boldly to establish its writ and counter grave threats to the country’s security.

As per media reports, the draft legislation prepared by the government envisages that these military led special tribunals once set up will remain in operation for two years and shall try hardened terrorists, their abettors and facilitators.

That the civilian authority would exercise due oversight and control is evident from the draft clause according to which ‘no person shall be prosecuted and tried without prior sanction of federal government’. Furthermore, the federal government shall have power to transfer any proceedings under the Anti Terrorism Act 1997 to these tribunals.

The plan to establish special tribunals headed by military officers faces stiff opposition from certain elements in liberal political parties as well as in the legal fraternity who remain flag bearers of the independent judiciary and are known for their traditional anti-army bias. One can already observe a well coordinated campaign in electronic media to this effect.

Pakistanis look up towards an independent judiciary but also expect that it will act boldly as per law to deliver speedy justice particularly by the anti terrorism courts. Sadly that has not happened. The important issue is whether terrorists/killers apprehended by law enforcing agencies should remain unpunished and many may even break jails while ordinary citizens and military persons/families continue to die in terror strikes. Are the lives of terrorists more important than the lives of common citizens?

As the government prepares to introduce the necessary legislation in parliament, few petitions may already be in process to challenge the special tribunals in apex court. If Pakistanis ever expect the Supreme Court to genuinely invoke the ‘Law of Necessity’ it will be when the Honorable Court hears such petitions but supports the will of the people in supreme national interest for sake of the country’s future.

While Nawaz Sharif deserves appreciation for lifting former President Asif Zardari’s unjustified moratorium on death sentences, he must resist pressures by foreign funded and sponsored domestic human rights groups/NGOs as well as by United Nations, European Union and organizations like Amnesty International to restore the unlawful freeze on executions.

There must be no discrimination in trying ‘jet black’ terrorists in special tribunals. These military courts must not only prosecute terrorists who attack armed forces personnel or defence establishments but long pending cases of target/ sectarian killers in anti terrorist courts in Karachi, Quetta or elsewhere should also be transferred to these tribunals to administer speedy justice. The perpetrators of Model Town and Faisalabad tragedies, too, must face swift military justice.

After almost eighteen months in power and having narrowly survived Dr Qadri’s Inqilabi and Imran Khan’s Azadi movements in 2014, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faces multi dimensional challenges in 2015. He must reprioritize his priorities focusing his government’s energies full time towards eliminating terrorism, establishing the writ of state, ensuring rule of law and accountability of the super corrupt and improving his style of governance.

We have no reason to doubt Nawaz Sharif’s sincerity in implementing the twenty points National Action Plan(NAP) in letter and spirit in 2015. He knows well that all eyes are set on him in view of his public commitment to lead the war against terrorism. The fifteen committees /sub committees notwithstanding, it becomes the Prime Minister’s responsibility to oversee the actions as per NAP including making the much awaited National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the joint intelligence setup and rapid response forces in provincial capitals , operational on a war footing.

If major political parties do not voluntarily deactivate their armed wings especially those in Karachi, then the state must act swiftly and firmly to disarm and disband these illegal militant groups. If somewhere within his own party ranks there exists a unholy nexus with banned extremist groups, then Nawaz Sharif must act irrespective of any loss to his party’s electoral interests.

The frequent All Parties Conferences (APC) with the topmost Army/ ISI leadership in attendance, security briefings in General Headquarters/Prime Minister’s office and follow up committees may be necessary in prevailing environment, but these point towards adhocism in national security matters. The country needs a full time institutionalized national security setup instead of limited cabinet committee on national security.

Imran Khan won the hearts and minds of the people by calling off the dharna at the peak of his successful Plan C shut down in Lahore. The remarkable national consensus and unity including civil - military unanimity achieved in the aftermath of the Peshawar tragedy may be threatened if the government delays the agreement with Imran Khan on Judicial Commission which is essential to investigate allegations of widespread rigging in 2013 elections.

Where is the national austerity plan? The era of complacency is over. It is no more business as usual. Let there be an end to unnecessary trips abroad by the prime minister. His long weekend holiday trips to Raiwind every week at tax payer’s expense must change to occasional mode for there is too much agenda to attend to in Islamabad.

It is time to throw VIP culture into the dustbin. The nation is fed up with stories in the media about mega scams in Reqo Dik, LNG/Energy and other infrastructure related projects/contracts. We must get back our looted billions of dollars stashed in safe havens abroad.

The Model Town, Wagah and Peshawar catastrophes of 2014 cannot be forgotten for the wounds are too deep to heal so easily, the scars would remain. I doubt if the survivors including hundreds of traumatized children and teachers of Peshawar’s Army Public School would ever be able to continue their education in the same premises in peace for the memories and images of the bloodbath would continue to cause extreme distress specially to young impressionable minds.

I was moved by the suggestion the other day of a retired three star General who served as the illustrious Vice Chancellor of Punjab University for many years. Let the Army Public School site be developed into a national memorial, where Pakistanis can forever visit and pay homage to their shaheed children and teachers.

The writer is a retired brigadier and a political/defence analyst and columnist.