Sunday June 16, 2024

Extension in military courts becoming imperative

By Tariq Butt
March 10, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The resumption of executions of terrorists, convicted by the military courts, has apparently infused urgency in the parliamentary leadership in its own way to renew their powers to try terrorists of all kinds.

The recommencement of executions will cover not only the terrorists on the death row but all other killers, who have been awarded capital punishment by courts and are awaiting execution. They are those whose all appeals have been turned down at the highest levels.

The executions were restarted after a considerably long break. The process was launched on Wednesday by hanging five hardcore terrorists, sentenced by military courts, in Kohat district jail. They belonged to the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and were involved in attacking law enforcement agencies and armed forces resulting in death and injuries to soldiers etc.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary players, who are hectically engaged in hammering out a consensus on the law to extend the powers of the military courts, are reaching an agreement fast. Some of a large number of proposals of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have been accepted which has obviously assuaged it to extend its support. After that, it has given up to press certain demands. Giving the right of appeal to the accused has been assured but the sessions judges will not be included in the military courts along with army officers. The law of evidence will be applicable.

In the expired 21st constitutional amendment that lapsed on Jan 7 this year, the convicts did not have the right of appeal and the sentences imposed on them by the military courts were final. The chief of army staff had been ratifying these sentences. But still the convicts approached high courts through writ petitions challenging their sentences.

Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar has worked hard to evolve a consensus and has been successful. National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq has also made his contribution by repeatedly getting the parliamentary groups together to continue discussions on the issue. The credit for arriving at an accord will be shared by all the parliamentary forces.

It appears that once the amendment bill is moved in the National Assembly on Friday, further consultations will be held among the parliamentary groups so that every side is satisfied for its unanimous passage. Every bill of such national importance has always won parliamentary approval with complete unanimity.

Every political party agrees to extend the powers of the military courts, but some have their own proposals to be included in the amendment bill. The PPP has been more vocal in this connection. However, it felt left out when all the other parliamentary parties including even the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) agreed during negotiations with the government side on the draft bill.

The session where the accord was reached had not been attended by the PPP for its own reasons. The PPP has been desperately trying to seek political relevance, and for this specific reason it came out with its own distinct recommendations about the military courts’ powers. However, the government was not dismissive of the PPP’s move and initiated talks with it by taking its proposal seriously.

Despite usual hiccups, the amendment bill is likely to be approved by Parliament very soon because every party realises that the military courts’ authority should be extended to deal with the hardcore terrorists without any inordinate delay.

Even while formulating its own suggestions, the PPP supported the idea but feared that the amendments might be used against politicians as well. The government has made it to ensure the PPP that the law will not apply against any political figure. Even the 21st amendment was also extended to the “jet black” terrorists and there was not a single complaint about its misuse against any political personality.