Govt Wants ‘Prompt Decision’ On Military Courts

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In an effort to break the deadlock over revival of military courts, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar talked to parliamentary leaders of different political parties over the phone on Saturday and stressed the need for a “prompt decision” in the wake of renewed terror attacks in the country.

Mr Dar also made a phone call to National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq asking him to facilitate early convening of a meeting of the parliamentary committee on military courts so that a decision could be made as soon as possible.

Mr Dar talked to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and his brother Senator Maulana Ataur Rehman, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party in the National Assembly Syed Naveed Qamar, vice chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Sherpao, according to a press release issued by the finance ministry.

During his telephone calls, Mr Dar emphasised the need for a consensus on the issue and said a prompt decision was vital to counter the fresh wave of terrorism that had gripped the country over the last few days.

Referring to the recent incidents in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Peshawar, Lahore, Quetta, Awaran and Sehwan, the minister said it was heart-wrenching to see so many precious lives being lost in gory incidents, adding that an effective and well-coordinated response on part of the federal and provincial governments was the need of the hour.

He told the parliamentary leaders that revival of military courts was essential for maintaining momentum of the anti-terrorism campaign and the political leadership in the parliament should show unity and unanimity of views on the issue. “There can be no compromise on the safety and security of people and the country,” the minister said.

The parliamentary leaders, according to the official handout, expressed agreement with the minister on having a well-coordinated and a befitting response to the terrorist threat.

During a meeting of the parliamentary leaders presided over by the NA speaker on Thursday, the draft of a government-sponsored constitutional amendment bill seeking a three-year extension for military courts was circulated. But the meeting failed to break the deadlock over the issue as the opposition leaders refused to support the proposal without certain guarantees and without intra-party discussions on it.

The opposition leaders, however, agreed on the formation of a five-member committee headed by Law Minister Zahid Hamid to review the draft.

It was announced after the meeting that the new committee would hold its first meeting on Feb 22 and the parliamentary leaders would meet again on Feb 27.

When contacted, Naveed Qamar said that during the telephonic conversation, the finance minister had sought help of his party for the revival of military courts and called for an early meeting than the decided one.

The PPP leader said that he had told the minister that “if the government wants to hold the meeting only for the sake of meeting as a cosmetic measure and to show to someone that we have been making efforts but the others are not agreeing to it, then it is okay and we are ready to face consequences”.

But if the government wanted a consensus decision on the issue, then it would have to remove apprehensions of the political leadership about the working of military courts, he added.

Mr Qamar, who had outright rejected the government’s draft, said that the PPP feared that like the Anti-Terrorism Act, the proposed amendment could also be used for “political victimisation.”

Replying to a question, he said the PPP had agreed to the formation of the committee and its participation in the meetings on the issue as “doors are not closed in politics”.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah, in a statement on Saturday, held the government’s “inaction and incompetence” responsible for the fresh wave of terror in the country.

“The government has the control over resources and institutions responsible to counter terrorism, but these institutions are unable to play any role due to the government’s incompetence,” he said.

Mr Shah particularly criticised the ministries of foreign affairs and interior for their alleged failure in dealing with the issue.

He said the opposition had always supported the government on the issue of terrorism and went one step ahead by supporting military courts, but the government had failed to implement the National Action Plan to counter terrorism.

He said the rulers had failed to analyse the situation in the national and international contexts resulting in the use of Afghanistan’s soil for terrorist activities in Pakistan.

After Thursday’s meeting, Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said that he had sought certain guarantees from the government regarding implementation of the proposed law as the rulers had not fulfilled commitments they had made at the time of the passage of the 21st Amendment some two years ago.

He criticised the government for its “failure” to carry out judicial reforms as promised by it at the time of seeking the political parties’ support for establishment of military courts.

Military courts were established and granted permission to try civilians accused of terrorism in Jan 2015 after the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in Dec 2014. The courts were given a two-year constitutional cover as both houses of the parliament passed the 21st Amendment despite fears among lawmakers that the establishment of military courts might undermine democracy in the country.

The courts have been non-functional since Jan 7 after the expiry of the two-year constitutional cover.

Courtesy: Dawn News

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