Afzal Guru of India and Ajmal Kasab of Pakistan have been hung by the neck to death for terrorism in India, after trials for waging war against India. Anwar Aulaqui and Samir Khan, both Americans, were droned to death abroad in Yemen by the United States as enemy combatants for waging war against the United States. In all cases the governments possessed verifiable information – whatever the clumsiness of the due process in courts in India and Pakistan and in bureaucracies in all 3 countries – that their own citizens were waging declared wars against their countries.
Clumsiness in the public explanation of the killings in large measure arises because of the secrecy and geopolitical sensitivity surrounding the killings (Ajmal Kasab’s hanging was the cleanest) with a concern for national security, social stability and for the tactics of war against the treasonous. Any country’s caution against the martyrdom of those committing treason is warranted. Opacity, however, comes across as arbitrariness especially when a country’s own citizens are involved. Wars are not supposed to be arbitrary.
Transparency, including in terrorism cases, with a respect for due process is necessary. Al Aulaqui and Samir Khan could have been tried in the United States just as Timothy McVeigh was, and Afzal Guru’s due process in India could have been permitted to stretch until all doors were closed: there was no reason for the Speedpost informing his family of his imminent hanging and burial in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail to be delayed until after the hanging.
Opacity and democracy are strange bedfellows.