By Mehr F. Husain
9 January 2015
Parliament's unanimous approval for military courts was not a light decision, nor was it an easy pill for democrats to swallow.
The irony of a democratic institution ceding more power to the military is certainly not lost - but Pakistan is at a point where the luxury of reforms and debate no longer exist.
Like all medicine, this bill was a necessary one.
Military action is but one aspect of a broader and deeper solution needed to eradicate the disease of terrorism.
While civilians have fought back with protests and vigils, this isn't enough as people remain divided.
Clearly, more was required to unite the nation - and what better way than via Parliament?
Of course, the religious right-wingers refused to vote, opting to refrain from ‘sinning’ by abstaining.
The issue for our ‘non-sinners’ was why terrorism was given the label of being religiously incited and couldn’t just be described as ‘terrorism’.
Well, one might remind those who claim terrorism is not religious that the terrorists themselves have donned religion as a mask to justify the heinous acts they conduct.
In Pakistan and globally, terrorism is more than just bloodlust and butchery - it is a system overhaul funded by those inclined towards a religious form of order instead of a secular one, fuelled by an ideology of violence disguised as religion.
Initially, when peace talks were being conducted, the TTP simply refused to budge from their demand for Sharia law, rejecting the idea of a democratic Pakistan that would be home to a myriad of cultures and religions.
It is time Muslims reclaimed their religion from those who use it to justify barbaric acts — massacring children, attacking innocents and persecuting minorities who have done no ill and are defenceless.
Some say the military courts are unconstitutional and undemocratic and may perpetuate violence.
But a history of democratic forces tolerating the religious right has brought the country to this point.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in an attempt to win the religious right, passed the constitutional amendments that made religion the business of the state, justifying the persecution of Ahmadis.
In 1996, Benazir Bhutto recognised the Taliban's regime in Afghanistan and made the grave error of forming a coalition with those who joined her to set up madrasas that bred young militants.
Pre-exile, Sharif’s desire to become Amir-ul-Momineen, led to him promising to rid the country of sectarianism while defending Sharia law.
To those who say military courts may propagate more violence, one can only ask if they will do more damage than Zia's romanticised version of an Islamic State, which consisted of the dumbing down of an entire generation fed on a diet of religious rhetoric, which led the country to the thorny, bloody present of today.
More than 50,000 have died due to the existence of terrorists and there is a severe lack of justice. It is not about bloodlust but a matter of fighting a militant mindset.
Capital punishment can provide temporary relief, but an active plan of action which resolves the issue is worth looking into, despite the high political risks.
Despite falling prey to religious pandering, today Pakistan has risen to stand at a time where it is compromising the constitution, risking the wrath of the judiciary and putting all its civilians at the mercy of non-civilian courts so that our children can live in a country where schools do not need to be shut down to stay alive.
Today under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, it is not a cause for celebration but a commendable effort to end all that the country has suffered as it rises through the ashes, exposing those who are committed to getting rid of terrorism and those who simply refuse to face blood splattered reality as they save their skins from 'sinning'.
As the bill was unanimously passed, the sole source of comfort came from Jinnah, perhaps the only leader who truly loved Pakistan: “If you can change your past and work together in a spirit… there will be no end to the progress you will make.”
Mehr F. Husain is a columnist based in Lahore