PPP Reaching Out To Parties For Moot On Military Courts

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The opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has started contacting political parties to extend invitation for a multi-party conference (MPC) on the revival of military courts to be hosted by it in Islamabad on March 4.

A PPP delegation headed by its newly-appointed secretary general Nayyar Bokhari visited Lal Haveli in Rawalpindi on Saturday and invited Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to the MPC.

Later, the PPP delegation met head of the Balochistan National Party-Awami Israrullah Zehri and Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqah-i-Jafria chief Hamid Ali Shah Moosavi and invited them to attend the MPC.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Bokhari said the PPP had to take the initiative of convening the MPC because of government failure to develop a consensus on the crucial issue of revival of military courts to counter terrorism.

He criticised the government for initiating the process of consultations with the parties on the issue after the expiry of the previous law under which military courts had been set up for a two-year period.

Replying to a question, Mr Bokhari said so far the PPP leadership had decided not to invite the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to the conference. However, the PPP would invite the PML-N allies in the ruling coalition as he also plans to formally extend invitation to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai.

The PPP leader said he was scheduled to meet PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in Lahore on Sunday and on Monday he would be meeting Awami National Party head Asfandyar Wali Khan.

He criticised the role of National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq over his act of presiding over meetings on military courts on behalf of the government, saying a speaker was always considered a non-partisan person.

Asked about differences between his party and the JUI-F over restricting the jurisdiction of military courts to ‘religious groups and sects’, Mr Bokhari said again the government was responsible for that situation as it had changed the draft of the proposed 21st constitutional amendment to which all parties had agreed with consensus.

Talking to reporters after his meeting with the PPP delegation, Sheikh Rashid suggested that all opposition parties should form an alliance against the government as such alliances had produced better results in the past.

Military courts were established and granted permission to try civilians charged with terrorism in Jan 2015 after a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in Dec 2014. The courts ceased to function on Jan 7 after the expiry of the two-year constitutional cover given to them.

Initially, not only the opposition parties, but the government allies — the JUI-F and the PkMAP — were also opposed to the idea of giving extension to the military courts. However, after the recent spate of terrorism across the country killing over 100 people and pressure from military circles, the parties have almost in principle agreed to revive the courts. The differences, however, persist over the draft of the amendment bill handed over to the parties by the government on Feb 17 suggesting a crucial amendment to Article 175(3) of the Constitution.

The opposition parties — the PPP, the PTI and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement — have declared that they will not endorse the government-proposed draft in its present form because the government has changed the draft without taking them into confidence and only to appease the JUI-F. The party was earlier opposing the government move, but now has agreed to support it after the government came up with an amended draft of the bill.

The opposition parties have objections to the government move to amend Article 175(3) of the constitution which had allowed military courts to hold trial of suspects “belonging to any terrorist group or organisation using the name of religion or a sect”. In the new draft, the government has removed the words “using the name of religion or a sect”, creating apprehensions among the opposition parties that the proposed law could be used against them for “arm-twisting or political victimisation”.

The opposition parties also oppose the three-year extension period, saying that a parliament which has been left with 15-month tenure cannot grant extension of three years as it will be considered an encroachment upon the powers of next parliament and government.

After Friday’s meeting of the parliamentary leaders, Law Minister Zahid Hamid had disclosed that the words “heinous and violent activities against the state” had been added to the proposed draft of the bill. In the meeting, the government had reportedly agreed to reduce the three-year period of military courts to two years.

Another meeting of the parliamentary parties will be held on Tuesday.

Courtesy: Dawn News

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