Necessity of military courts for speedy trial
The seventh meeting of leaders of parliamentary parties was held in Islamabad on Friday, which ended without making any decision regarding revival of military courts for terrorism-related cases. A day earlier, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) ended its boycott of the committee, but the deadlock still persisted as opposition parties did not agree to lend unconditional support to the government’s proposed draft of the constitution amendment bill. Officials said the matter has again been referred to a sub-committee headed by Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid. However, the government agreed to revise a three-year period for military courts down to two. Although, there has been marked let up in terrorism yet all the political and religious parties must demonstrate resolve to eliminate terrorism from the country, and should not waste time in bickering and debating over the extension of military courts.
Two years ago, the key decisions regarding implementation of the National Action Plan and national security were taken including formulation of a policy to regulate INGOs and local NGOs; renewal of armed licences, and a detailed policy had been prepared by the interior ministry over private security companies working inside Pakistan. It was decided to legislate for regulating the NGOs including their registration and funding. It had also been decided to crush those challenging the writ of the state, and those resorting to violence in the name of Islam be dealt with iron hand. Other points were: Taking effective steps against religious persecution, registration and regulation of madaras, ban on glorification of terrorism and terrorists organizations through print and electronic media, FATA reforms, dismantling communication networks of terrorist organizations, zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab, taking the ongoing operation in Karachi to its logical conclusion, and dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists.
Last year, the provinces submitted details about progress made in their respective areas; and it appeared that prime minister was not satisfied with the uneven progress made in the provinces. The National Assembly passed the 21st Constitutional Amendment and Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2015 extending jurisdiction of military courts to try terrorists unopposed, as 247 members voted in favor of the laws which will provide constitutional cover to special/military courts for the trial of terrorism suspects. The Constitution (21st Amendment) Act, 2015 was to remain in force for two years from the date of its commencement and ceased to be part of the Constitution on 7th January 2017. The statement of the objects and reasons said an extraordinary situation and circumstances exist which demanded special measures for speedy trial of offences relating to terrorism, waging war or insurrection against Pakistan and prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan.
According to a report, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) decided not to oppose the revival of military courts which had ceased functioning on 7th January 2017 after the expiry of their two-year mandated term. The decision came hours after the PPP pulled out of an important session of a sub-committee of the parliamentary committee on military courts held in Islamabad on Wednesday. The apparent change of heart came at a meeting of the PPP at the Bilawal House in Karachi where party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto and opposition leader Khursheed Shah agreed that they would not oppose the re-establishment of military courts if other political parties supported the move. “We should support the revival of military courts, but also voice our grievances against the federal government, especially with regard to the implementation of National Action Plan against terrorism,” a PPP leader quoted the participants as saying.
After the meeting, Khursheed Shah said the PPP believed in democracy and would make all decisions in the greater interest of the country. However, he reiterated that his party’s campaign against the PML-N government and its corruption would continue till their five demands were met. In order to muster the support of its key ally, the government gave in to the JUI-F of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, which had reservations over the trial of religious and sectarian terror suspects in military courts. However, government sources argued the issues would be sorted out and the PPP would be back to the negotiating table. “Just because there is apparent hostility does not mean things are hostile behind the scene. A lot is going on and we hope to see the PPP as part and parcel of the political drive to re-establish military courts,” said a PML-N stalwart actively involved in legal issues.
However, political parties in the parliament have agreed to extend the tenure of the military courts to deal with the extraordinary situation the country was passing through in the wake of terrorist blasts in different areas. This was decided on Thursday during a joint meeting of leader of parliamentary parties held under the chairmanship of Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq for about four hours. The PPP had differences over the text of the draft law and did not attend the meeting. The meeting was attended by PML-N, PTI, JI, JUI-F, ANP, PkMAP, Balochistan National Party, National Party, MQM and others. Some parties are demanding the removal of words about religion and sects from the text of the documents. In this connection, PTI has also joined the camp. It was also agreed that to eliminate the menace of terrorism and extremism, a parliamentary committee would be formed to monitor the implementation of National Action Plan.