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March 21, 2017

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Bill tabled in NA for extension in military courts

Bill tabled in NA for extension in military courts

ISLAMABAD: The Constitution (Twenty Eighth Amendment)-bill and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) bill envisaging extension in the military courts were tabled in the National Assembly on Monday amid opposition from two parliamentarians, Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Jamshed Dasti.

The voting on the Constitution (Twenty-Eighth Amendment) bill, which requires two third majority would be held on Tuesday while the Pakistan Army (Amendment) bill will also be passed on the same day.

As per the agreement reached with the opposition, the government would also move a resolution for constitution of a National Security Committee of parliament. The four points of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were the accused will be produced before the court concerned within 24 hours, the accused will be informed about grounds of arrest within 24 hours, the accused will have the right to have lawyer of choice and provisions of Qanoon-e-Shahadat. Through another amendment, the ‘Use of religion’ will be replaced with “Misuse of religion’.

The parliamentary leaders from the allied and opposition parties while taking part in discussion on the legislation, announced to vote in favour of extension in period of military courts while Mehmood Khan Achakzai from Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and independent member Jamshed Dasti maintained that they would not support the Constitution (Twenty Eighth Amendment) bill and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act bill.

The government, however, faced severe criticism from leaders of the opposition parties who said the government did nothing in the last two years for strengthening civil courts and providing safety to judges of these courts.

Mehmood Khan Achakzai said that extension in tenure of military courts would be injustice with those judges who refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) during Musharraf tenure.

“We all have taken oaths to safeguard the Constitution,” Achakzai maintained. He announced his support to legislation for extension in military courts with four conditions. Achakzai said the Army should apologise for its mistakes of the past, secondly the judges who took oath under PCO should be condemned, thirdly the judges who refused to take oath under PCO be compensated and fourthly the workers who sacrificed and suffered for the sake of democracy should be declared as heroes.

He also advocated giving Pakistani citizenship to Afghans who have been living in Pakistan for over three decades. “If America and European countries can give citizenship to foreigners living there after five years, we are not following the same practice,” he said.

Jamshed Dasti while announcing that he would not support amendments to the Constitution and the Pakistan Army Act, said all the members of the House should oppose extension in tenure of the military courts.

PPP’s Naveed Qamar said they would support extension in military courts with heavy heart. “It is shameful day in the democratic and parliamentary history of Pakistan,” he said.

The PPP parliamentary leader also termed two-year extension in military court indictment of the parliamentary system, judicial system and civil governance in the country. He said the government mainly was responsible for not taking the required measures which could have strengthened the setup of civil judiciary.

Naveed Qamar said seeing the prevailing circumstances and will of the present government, he was under impression that the conditions would improve after two years. He feared as to what would be the option left with the government even if the military courts also failed to deliver.

The PPP leader categorically said they would oppose the legislation if the government did not fulfill its commitment for moving a resolution for constitution of a national security committee of Parliament.

At this Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq asked the government to respond to concerns of the main opposition party. Law Minister Zahid Hamid assured the opposition benches that the resolution as commitment made with them would be moved after passage of the resolution on Tuesday.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said the opposition parties two years back supported the government for establishment of military courts in view of wave of terror and for the sake of national interests.

Saying that extension in military courts was not good option but the present government could have averted the situation which Parliament was facing today, had it implemented the National Action Plan (NAP) in letter and spirit. “Whether the government was not aware of the fact that the tenure of military courts would end after two years,” he questioned.

Saying that a multi-pronged strategy required addressing menace of terrorism, Qureshi said the PML-N government also failed in introducing legal reforms.

Shaikh Salahuddin of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) also observed that the need for extension in military courts was created after the government had failed to implement the National Action Plan (NAP) in letter and spirit.

The MQM member said his party had proposed that the period of military courts should be extended as per tenure of the present government.

Sahibzada Tariqullah of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) while supporting extension in military courts, said some extraordinary decision had to be taken in extra-ordinary circumstances. He said the armed forces were non-political and non-controversial institution and it should not be made as controversial. Supporting extension in military courts, he said it should be the last decision of this kind.

The JI parliamentary leader said that religion had nothing to do with the terrorism. Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao said the governments did nothing for the welfare and protection of judges who did not take oath under PCO.

He also termed closure of Pak-Afghan border wrong decision which he said should be avoided in future. Shaikh Rashid Ahmad of Awami Muslim League while supporting the legislation said the system of appointment of judges in the country was not transparent and it should be reviewed. He said all the political parties in Pakistan were production of martial laws.

Naeema Kishwar of JUI-F proposed that blasphemy cases should also be referred to the military courts and also demanded implementation on sentences given to those involved in blasphemy. She said the columns of religion and sect should be removed from the legislation.

 

 

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