Why is General Syed Asim Munir Continuing Trial of Civilians in the Military Courts

 Why is General Syed Asim Munir Continuing Trial of Civilians in the Military Courts

Why is General Syed Asim Munir Continuing Trial of Civilians in the Military Courts

Why is General Syed Asim Munir Continuing Trial of Civilians in the Military Courts?


Why is General Syed Asim Munir Continuing Trial of Civilians in the Military Courts?

In recent times, there has been growing concern and curiosity surrounding General Syed Asim Munir’s decision to continue the trial of civilians in military courts. This move has sparked debates and raised questions about the reasons behind this ongoing practice.

While civilian trial procedures exist in most legal systems, the decision to involve military courts in the adjudication of cases involving civilians raises doubts and calls for explanation. General Syed Asim Munir’s stance on this matter has left many wondering about the motivations and justifications behind this controversial course of action.

Seeking transparency and understanding, it is crucial to examine the underlying factors that have led to the persistent use of military courts for civilian trials. By delving into the finer details and context, a clearer picture can emerge, shedding light on the reasons behind General Syed Asim Munir’s decision.

We explore and analyze this complex issue in further detail, aiming to uncover the motives and implications of continuing the trial of civilians in military courts under General Syed Asim Munir’s leadership.


Controversy Surrounding Military Authority in Pakistan

The issue of determining the appropriate sphere for military authority has long been a contentious topic in Pakistan. Once again, it has come under the spotlight as the army in Pakistan proceeds to try civilians accused of involvement in violent protests and arson under military laws. This situation has sparked significant debate and raised questions about the proper role of the military in such cases.

Violent Protests and Military Response


The detention of Imran Khan in May by the National Accountability Bureau sparked widespread protests across the country. Social media was flooded with videos and images of clashes between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party supporters and police in Karachi, as well as arson attacks on the army’s head office, GHQ in Rawalpindi, and vandalism of the Corps Commanders’ Flag Staff House in Lahore. The military characterized the events as a “dark chapter” following the escalation of violence on May 9th.

Military’s Vow to Bring “Spoilers” to Justice

In the aftermath of the violent protests, the military vowed on May 15th to bring those involved in attacks on military installations to justice. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Syed Asim Munir, presided over the Special Corps Commanders Conference (CCC) at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and declared that the perpetrators would be tried under relevant laws of Pakistan, including the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act.

Government and Military Response to the Protests

The government, under outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, justified the arrest and the revival of military courts to try civilians who targeted government and military installations during the May 9th protests. This led to a strong reaction from both the government and the military, with promises to take action against the culprits. Imran Khan himself compared the army’s crackdown on the protesters to the tactics employed by Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire, to instill fear in the public. The U.S. State Department also called on Pakistani authorities to respect democratic principles and the rule of law for all people, as enshrined in the country’s constitution, in response to the decision to employ military courts.

The Pakistani Military’s Jurisdiction over Civilians

In the wake of the December 2014 Peshawar School terror attack, the military in Pakistan was granted the jurisdiction to try civilians suspected of terrorism-related offenses. The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act (PAA) 2015 authorized military courts to try civilians and broadened the range of offenses that could be tried. The government’s National Action Plan initially conceived military courts as a temporary solution to try terrorists but created a much wider scope of offenses, including attacks on military officials or their installations.

Debating the Legitimacy of Trials under Pakistan Army Act

The question of the legitimacy of trying civilians under the Pakistan Army Act has been a topic of extensive debate by the Pakistani civil society. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa declared the amendments unconstitutional and of no legal effect, stating that the 21st Amendment and PAA 2015 were passed under extraordinary circumstances. However, the 23rd Amendment and amendments to the Army Act renewed military courts’ jurisdiction over civilians.

Inconsistencies in Political Positions

It is ironic that Imran Khan’s PTI, which now faces the military court’s jurisdiction, was seeking to extend the tenure of military courts early in 2019. However, the party lacked the two-thirds majority required to carry out a constitutional amendment for this purpose. Several convictions by military courts were overturned by the Peshawar High Court for lack of credible evidence, with some judgments allegedly affected by the “malice” of law and facts.

Military Trials Undermine Human Rights

Concerns Raised by the International Commission of Jurists

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has referred to the military trial of civilians as a ‘disaster for human rights’ and expressed concern over the possibility of further extension to military courts, fearing that it would make the practice effectively permanent. The expansion of the army’s power in Pakistan also raises concerns for foreigners working in and engaging with the country, as they may also be impacted by military tribunals. The case of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was sentenced to death by a military court based on an “extracted confession” by military personnel, highlights the potential risks and consequences of military trials.

Undermining Human Rights and Judicial Power

If misused, the concept of military trials seriously undermines the separation of judicial power and human rights guarantees, such as the right to a fair trial. It enhances the powers of the Pakistan Army, which already wields considerable influence in matters of security, foreign policy, and politics.

Current Developments and Supreme Court Observations


The military’s legal department has gathered evidence against 102 protestors involved in the May 9 protest and is proceeding with formal proceedings against them under relevant sections of the Official Secrets Act and the Pakistan Army Act. However, on June 22, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, adjourned the hearing of petitions challenging the trial of civilians in military courts. Chief Justice Bandial has expressed concerns about subjecting civilians to the rigors and harshness of military courts, stating that such trials are not in accordance with the Constitution. He emphasized that military law is meant to be different from ordinary law and is primarily for military personnel.

Challenges and Demands of Rights Groups


Despite being independent for 76 years, Pakistan’s struggle to meet the basic needs of its population and declining state effectiveness persist. The military’s repeated intervention in the political process has demonstrated a lack of respect for the constitution and consistent undermining of judicial institutions and civilian bureaucracy. Rights groups are demanding that cases against civilians be tried in established courts, as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has labeled the idea of military courts as undemocratic. Concerns have been raised that military courts’ powers are being used to silence the voices of opponents.

Continuing Challenges to the Trial of Civilians in Military Courts

Despite clear examples of how successive governments have been targeted by the military, each government in power continues to wield military courts as a weapon and take action against their political opponents. The challenge against the trial of civilians in military courts persists, despite its illegality under international humanitarian law. The unfolding political drama will determine the future course of action.

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