Monday March 20, 2023

Accord on military courts amendment bill

March 01, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The new draft amendment prepared on Tuesday by political parties for the re-establishment of military courts provides for widening the scope for the trial of all terrorists, including those involved in killings and subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi.

Although because of the insistence of the PTI the words “religion” and “sect” have been made part of the draft amendment, the political parties agreed to try anyone by covering those who commit “grave and violent act of terrorism against the state”. The PPP was not part of Tuesday’s deliberations.

According to the 21st amendment, under which the military courts were created in January 2015 for two years, only the cases of those terrorists could be referred to these courts for trial who were involved in terrorism activities while using the name of “religion” or “sect”.

Now besides those belonging to “any terrorist group or organization misusing the name of religion or a sect”, those committing “grave and violent act of terrorism against the state” have also been added. This addition will cover all terrorists.

The JI and JUI-F voted for re-establishment of the military courts, yet the two parties still have reservations about the inclusion of words “religion” and “sect”. The PTI representatives were adamant that withoutthese expressions, the party would not agree to the amendment.

It was discussed that without even the inclusion of the word “religion”, those involved in terrorist activities and belonging to terrorist organizations like TTP, Laskar-e-Jhangvi etc are well covered in the original draft amendment brought forward by the government. However, the PTI insisted that the word “religion” must be made part of the draft amendment.

Now the draft amendment of Article 175 of the constitution reads as: “In the Constitution, in Article 175, in clause (3), for the full-stop at the end, a colon shall be substituted and thereafter the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:-

“Provided that the provision of this Article shall have no application to the trial of persons under any of the Acts mentioned at serial No. 6, 7, 8 and 9 of sub-part III of Part I of the First Schedule, who claim, or are known, to belong to any terrorist group or organization misusing the name of religion or a sect or commit grave and violent act of terrorism against the State.”

Accordingly Pakistan Army Act 1952 is proposed to be amended to include the provision of trying those “claiming or are known to belong to any terrorist group or organization misusing the name of religion or a sect or committing grave and violent act of terrorism against the State; and-

“(a) raise arms or wage war against Pakistan, or attack the Armed Forces of Pakistan, law enforcement agencies, judiciary, public servants or civilians or attack any civil or military installation in Pakistan; or (b) abduct any person for ransom, or cause injury or death of any person; or (c) possess, store, fabricate or transport or use explosives, fire-arms, instruments, articles, suicide jackets; or (d) use or design vehicles for terrorist acts; or (e) provide or receive funding from any foreign or local source for activities under this sub-clause; or (f) act to over-awe the state or any section of the public or sect or religious minority; or (g) create terror or insecurity in Pakistan or attempt to commit any of the said acts within or outside Pakistan, shall be punished under this act.

As has been the case previously, the cases of terrorists for trial before the military courts would require the federal government sanction. 

Meanwhile, all parliamentary parties Tuesday reached consensus on extension in the tenure of military courts for another two years.The PPP skipped the parliamentary leaders’ meeting chaired by Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq here.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, AML chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Siraj-ul-Haq, ANP leader Ghulam Ahmad Bilour and other parliamentary leaders attended the meeting.

Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Ishaq Dar urged the political parties not to politicise the issue of military courts. He said all the political parties had agreed on extension in the tenure of military courts following the fresh wave of terrorism.

“A constitutional amendment is required for extension in the military courts. The Senate session on March 3 and NA session on March 6 will be held in this regard,” he said. He expressed the hope that the PPP, which has convened a meeting of political parties on Saturday, would also take a decision as per requirements of the country.

The minister thanked all political parties for extending their cooperation on the issue. Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the current situation was threatening the country’s integrity and sovereignty.

Qureshi said police tackle terrorism across the globe while in Pakistan the army had to be called out to eradicate this problem. “Though the military courts are need of the hour, our normal courts should address this problem. 

After the expiry of military courts’ tenure, these cases will be referred to the normal courts”, he said. He said a parliamentary and sub-committee will oversee matters of military courts and NAP implementation.

Awami Muslim League Chief Sheikh Rasheed said his party favoured military courts. Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan chief Dr. Farooq Sattar said the government had done nothing to improve the existing courts.

Farooq said he will express his reservations about the military courts to the prime minister and ask him to address them. Sattar said the federal government had done nothing in the past two years to improve the country’s judicial system.

JI leader Sahibzada Tariqullah said terrorism should not be linked with religion and action should be taken against anyone involved in terrorism. "Military courts are the need of the hour," he added.

Haji Ghulam Bilour said though establishment of military court was negation of human rights, they supported it, as it was the need of the hour. QWP chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao expressed the hope that no further extension in the tenure of military courts would be required after their revival.

He also expressed hope that there would be parliamentary oversight of the military courts. The PPP basically objects to the government’s move to amend Article 175(3) of the Constitution which allows the military courts to try persons ‘belonging to a terrorist group or organization using the name of religion or a sect’.

In the new draft, the government has removed the words “using the name of religion or sect”, creating apprehensions for the PPP that the law might be used against them for “arm-twisting or political victimization. The 21st Amendment under which military courts were established expired in January 2017 after a two-year sunset clause contained in the legislation took effect.