ISLAMABAD: The government on Friday introduced in the National Assembly a bill for the revival of military courts for two years amid the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) attempt to block it and a walkout by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) over Thursday’s scuffle between one of its members and a ruling party lawmaker.
Following the tabling of the bill, Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq again sent it to a parliamentary committee for addressing the concerns of the PPP and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) which also rejected the draft for bringing religious parties and sects within the purview of military courts.
The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was tabled along with eight other bills after the PPP’s MNA Shagufta Jumani pointed out the quorum, but Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi did not adjourn the session apparently because of eagerness shown by the members on the treasury benches to adopt it.
Speaker calls for addressing concerns of PPP, JUI-F
While the treasury benchers kept sitting, the PTI and PPP MNAs left the house and pointed out the quorum, making it difficult for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to complete it.
After an interval of 45 minutes, some other members of the ruling party appeared to meet the minimum requirement of attendance and Speaker Ayaz Sadiq came out of his chamber, replaced the deputy speaker and asked Law Minister Zahid Hamid to introduce the military courts draft and other bills without any delay.
“Avoid giving background of revival of military courts and immediately table the bill,” he suggested to the minister.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) stance on the issue came forth for the first time as its members remained in the house to support the government.
The speaker asked the law minister to address the concerns of the PPP whose two main proposals — that the courts’ term should not be more than a year and sessions judges should preside over them — were not incorporated in the bill.
He also called for addressing the grievance of the JUI-F on the insertion of the words ‘religious groups and sects’ in the bill.
“Zahid Hamid Sahib, I think that the bill should be sent to the parliamentary committee again to address concerns of the PPP and JUI-F,” he added.
Earlier, the house witnessed an exchange of harsh words between the PML-N and PTI members for the second day over the scuffle between the latter’s MNA Murad Saeed and the former’s Javed Latif.
Introducing the bill, the law minister said nine meetings of the parliamentary parties’ leaders had been held on the issue and almost all mainstream parties had agreed on extension of the military courts for two years.
“The bill has been introduced in view of extraordinary situation and circumstance which demanded continuation of special measures adopted for speedy trial of certain offences relating to terrorism, waging of war or insurrection against Pakistan and prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan by any terrorist group, armed group, wing and militia or their members misusing the name of religion or a sect or by committing grave and violent act of terrorism against the state,” the draft said.
“There still exists grave and unprecedented threat to the integrity of Pakistan from terrorist groups by raising of arms and insurrection misusing name of religion or a sect or by committing grave and violent act of terrorism against the state, or by foreign and locally funded anti-state elements,” it said.
“Special measures were adopted pursuant to the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015 against terrorist groups, armed groups, wings and militia or their members fighting while misusing the name of religion or a sect or by committing grave and violent act of terrorism against the state, captured or to be captured in combat with the armed forces or other law enforcement agencies or otherwise.”
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman lauded the government’s decision to revive the military courts due to the prevailing wave of terrorism, but rejected the bill for including the term religious groups and sects.