Tuesday December 05, 2023

Adoption of resolution against SC ruling: Political parties in Senate speak against civilians’ trial in military courts

November 21, 2023
An undated image of the Senate of Pakistan hall. — Senate Facebook
An undated image of the Senate of Pakistan hall. — Senate Facebook

ISLAMABAD: Terming the adoption of a recent resolution against the Supreme Court ruling a drone attack on the Senate, legislators belonging to the main political parties in the Upper House of Parliament Monday urged for implementation of the Supreme Court verdict that had declared unconstitutional civilians’ trial by military courts.

Unlike the previous two sittings on Tuesday and Friday, which had lasted for a few minutes in the absence of the Leader of the House and Leader of Opposition, the House transacted the business on the private members day after a two-day break.

A strong protest by senators opposing the resolution paved the way for them to be given the floor to speak on the resolution, which justified trial of civilians involved in the May 9 mayhem by military courts and urged the apex court to review its ruling by a larger bench.

Though Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani did not allow it, the lawmakers urged him to withdraw the resolution immediately and allow them to move another resolution submitted to the Senate Secretariat last Monday by Jamaat-e-Islami lawmaker Mushtaq Ahmad, when the much-talked about resolution was passed in the presence of about 12 senators.

On a point of importance, ex-chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani declared that the very resolution did not reflect the will of the House when it comes to the question of majority. “Let it be put to vote here now to find out whether that resolution gets the majority’s support,” he threw up a challenge.

He insisted the last week’s resolution in support of the military courts did not reflect the majority of the Senate. “The resolution was brought on the tail-end of the sitting and was not even on the orders of the day,” he said amid desk thumping by some fellow members.

Rabbani also pointed out that even at that time, the House was not in quorum and maintained the decision of apex court against the military courts was within the ambit of the Constitution and the military establishment and the caretakers should have admitted it in letter and spirit.

However, he contended that legal options were available if someone thought that the decision was opposed to the Constitution, adding that the resolution had been bulldozed through the Senate and parliament had been disrespected in this way.

JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmed said that a drone attack had been carried out on the Senate as well as democracy and the media freedom by the non-democratic forces through the resolution. He appealed to the chair to allow him to move his resolution that endorses the decision of the apex court but the chair did not allow him to do so and said the matter was sub-judice.

The chairman allowed the two movers of the resolution, Senator Dilawar Khan and Senator Manzoor Ahmed Kakar, to respond to the criticism of their follow lawmakers. Dilawar criticised Rabbani for voting in favour of military courts in the past and said that one should avoid double standards.

The chair remarked that the matter was now sub-judice as the federal government and other provincial governments had filed review petitions against the decision of the apex court. However, he allowed other members to speak on the issue after they insisted.

National Party Senator Tahir Bizenjo argued that civilian courts could try those who were involved in the May 9 attacks on military installations and there was no point of concern over the matter. He called for withdrawing the resolution. “If the civilian courts can’t sentence those involved in May 9 attacks, then lock them,” he remarked.

He said that neither the resolution was on the orders of the day, nor the Leader of the House and Leader of Opposition were consulted and the majority was not present in the House at that time.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Senator Syed Ali Zafar endorsed the SC decision and said the trial of civilians by military courts violated Article 10 A of the Constitution that provided fair trial to each citizen of Pakistan and the due process. He added that such a resolution could not be allowed to be moved in the House as there was a threat of clash of institutions through such actions besides breaching the fundamental rights of citizens.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl Senator Kaman Murtaza said the resolution had not been introduced in the House by following the due process, saying the trial of civilians in special courts was wrong by all means and must be avoided.

Senator Dilawar Khan, who had moved the resolution, rejected the criticism of other lawmakers and taunted Senator Rabbani for voting in the past in favour of the constitutional amendment that allowed the trial of terrorists in military courts. He said that anyone should have pointed out quorum if the House lacked the required majority when the resolution was moved.

Senator Kakar rose to say that the military courts had been trying civilians in the past while questioning the ability of the special anti-terrorism courts to try terrorists.

Later, on a point of personal explanation, Senator Rabbani said that he had voted for the constitutional amendment to pave way for the establishment of parallel military courts to try terrorists as he was bound by his party discipline. “But I am ashamed of committing that act.”

He emphasised the resolution under discussion supported trial of civilians by military courts, which was against the Constitution and hence could not be backed. The Senate will now meet today (Tuesday) morning.