Pakistan/Afghanistan: Why courts?

March 28, 2017

Why courts?

Attacks on courts in Pakistan and Afghanistan reflect similarities of modus operandi and targets

Two recent attackson a van carrying Judges in Peshawar and outside Tangi court amplify the objective of the terrorists to persistently hit one of the most important components of the Criminal Justice System (CJS). These incidents lead to a number of questions that need to be addressed. During the climax of militancy,the police primarily remained in the line of fire but gradually other practitioners of CJS including judges, lawyers, prosecutors and jail officers also became victims of terrorism.

Despite dismally low conviction rates, why are courts ideal targets? Actually, after long spell of militancy and large number of arrests of militants,the public expects higher conviction rates. And the extremists through their relentless attacks want to keep the courts under pressure.

The list of attacks is long. In February 2007, detonation by a suicide attacker in the court of senior civil judge Quetta robbed lives of 16 including the judge and 6 lawyers. Two terror attacks at Peshawar court within the time span of a month claimed lives of many in 2009. In March 2013, two bombers again targeted the judicial complex Peshawar andfour lives were lost. In March 2014, in a gun-and-bomb attack 11 people, including an additional district and sessions judge, were killed inside the District Courts Islamabad.

In March 2016, a suicide bomber detonated in front of Shabqadar court resulted into death of 10 persons. Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (JuA) claimed responsibility for the attack and pleaded the reason behind it was vengeance for the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri. In August 2016 a suicide bomber targeted lawyers gathered in a hospital in Quetta resulted in death of 70. Later in 2016, a Mardan court was attacked.

Attacks on courts in Afghanistan and Pakistan show similarities of modus operandi and in the selection of targets.

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