Bill for extension of military courts presented in Pakistan National Assembly

Military courts were disbanded on January 7 after a sunset clause included in the legal provisions under which the tribunals were established expired.

Published: 21st March 2017 03:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st March 2017 03:24 AM   |  A+A-

By PTI

ISLAMABAD: The constitution amendment bill seeking extension of military courts in Pakistan was today presented in the National Assembly. The bill was presented by Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid and the final vote on the amendment is expected to take place tomorrow.

The amendment bill seeking extension of military courts for two years to try hardcore terrorist involved in heinous crimes, was moved after all major political parties including the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) last week agreed to support the amendment, the Dawn reported. Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Awami Muslim League (AML) leader Shaikh Rasheed criticised the federal government over, what they said, was its failure to curb terrorism in the country without seeking the military's assistance.

"Has the country reaped any benefits from the establishment of the military courts in the last two years?" Achakzai asked. "You cannot govern a country in this manner," he added. Rasheed said if justice is not served then people will be forced to take matters in their own hands. Pakistan Peoples Party's Naveed Qamar, also the former defence minister of Pakistan, lamented the state of affairs in the country, saying he does not believe things will improve in the next two years even if the military courts are revived.

"The need to re-establish military courts in the country is evidence of how the federal government has failed," said Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's Shah Mehmood Qureshi during the NA session. "Was the government not aware that the mandate over military courts will expire after two years?" the PTI leader asked. However, he said that there is consensus that military courts will not be made a permanent part of the Constitution.

Military courts were disbanded on January 7 after a sunset clause included in the legal provisions under which the tribunals were established expired. The government and the opposition had struggled to reach a consensus on reviving the courts despite frequent discussions. The primary concern of critics was the mystery surrounding military court trials: no one knows who the convicts are, what charges have been brought against them, or what the accused's defence is against the allegations levelled. Proponents say the courts act as an "effective deterrent" for those considering violent acts. The court are run by the military officers and operate in secrecy due to fear of backlash by militants. But their operations have prompted the rights bodies to raise questions over fair trial of accused.

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