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January 2, 2015

Mode of terrorists’ trial to be decided today


January 2, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Another conclave of top parliamentary leaders, summoned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday, is likely to clear the decks in the way of formation of new military courts or enhancing the powers of such existing forums.
Amendments either to the Constitution or the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) are on the table. The government wants a constitutional amendment to remain in force for two years while Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Aitzaz Ahsan is opposed to it and says the desired objective can be easily achieved by making a small change in the PAA.
“So far, there is no consensus on the constitutional amendment, but I hope agreement will be achieved on the new measure,” he told the reporters on Thursday.
A source said the essentially required in-depth discussions have taken place and whatever the conclusive deliberations are needed will be held on Friday.
Another meeting presided over by the prime minister on Thursday, which was also attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, was part of these consultations, which are now in final stage.
The meeting of the senior most parliamentary leaders is the third in a row, the first one having been held on December 17, a day after the tragic bombing of the Peshawar Army School & College and the second convened on December 24.
The second conference had approved the National Action Plan (NAP), which was formulated with consensus by a multiparty committee of top parliamentary leaders, okaying the establishment of military courts.
“I think the controversy created by some parties over the setting up of military courts will be shortly over,” the source said. “There is no divergence of opinion on the very proposal of forming such courts, and the difference revolves around having these forums either through amending the Constitution or the PAA.”
Aitzaz Ahsan said that his proposal was that the trial powers of the existing Field General Courts Martial (FGCM) in the

PAA should be increased by very limited level. He believes that this amendment would not be struck down by any superior court and bar associations, civil society and other segments of society will also accept it.
Apart from what Aitzaz Ahsan says, his party chief Asif Ali Zardari will enunciate the PPP policy authoritatively if he honours the prime minister’s invitation to attend Friday’s deliberations. He has already stated that he supports the military courts, but these should not be used against politicians.
There is a sense of urgency everywhere in the government and the Pakistan Army to see quick enforcement of NAP without any delay so that the terrorists are taken care of by awarding them exemplary punishments.
In this connection, the statement issued on the conclusion of the corps commanders’ conference was important. “Appreciating the resolve of the national political leadership shown during the All Parties Conference, COAS said that entire nation was looking towards Political and Military leadership of the country to take bold and meaningful decisions leading to stern action against terrorists and their sympathizers. Much wanted and precious wider political consensus reached against terrorism is not lost to smaller issues, the participants hoped. Key lies in all institutions joining hands for an effective and prompt implementation of a comprehensive National Action Plan without having to lose any further time, he emphasized.”
While preparations are afoot to provide the legal cover for creation of military courts, which will be formed in the next few days, the federal government has established three special courts under the Pakistan Protection Act (PPA) 2014, which was passed by Parliament in July last year.
It is not known why the government took six months to set up these courts to try militants. When Article 245 is invoked, the PPA becomes operational. The Article is rarely brought into play and is applied only in very grave situations when other law enforcement agencies and civil machinery are unable to maintain normalcy in a certain area. The armed forces, civil armed forces and police get exhaustive powers under the PPA when Article 245 is invoked.

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