Fate of military courts hangs in balance

Govt looks for alternatives instead of giving extension to their tenure

Hasnaat Malik December 19, 2016
Govt looks for alternatives instead of giving extension to their tenure. CREATIVE: AAMIR KHAN

ISLAMABAD: The civilian leadership is not interested in extending the tenure of military courts set up to try terror suspects, sources told The Express Tribune.

According to them, the government will not bring forth a new constitutional amendment to extend the courts’ tenure, which will end on January 7. “The tenure of military courts will not be extended but effective legislation will be put in place to combat anti-state elements,” a senior Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader said. He said this new legislation will have provisions to protect judges, witnesses and prosecutors, and to govern jail trials, use of forensic data, etc.

Supreme Court dismisses all appeals in military convicts' cases

A senior law ministry official told The Express Tribune that the ministry is working on several alternatives to military courts, including setting up new civilian courts to try hardcore terrorists.  “The working of these proposed courts will be different from others and the names of judges of these courts – which will be finalised after consultation with the chief justice – will be kept confidential during trial,” the official said. He added that a final decision on the fate of military courts or its possible alternatives will be taken by the federal cabinet.

The military establishment is still likely to seek an extension for such courts, some other sources said. They said the army chief may take up this issue during his first meeting with the prime minister over the implementation of the National Action Plan. However, the military may drop the extension demand if the civilian government comes up with any alternative measures to try terrorists, the sources added.

Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf Ali told The Express Tribune that in his opinion, there should not be a tenure for courts and the war against terror should continue without interruption. “The duty of the state does not end on a particular date. We should not show any laxity, we can’t afford that,” he said. The AGP added that he believes constitutional protections are available to those who respect the state and constitution, but not to those who wage war against it.

What standards of justice should military courts in Pakistan adhere to?

According to data collected by Justice Project Pakistan, 419 executions have occurred in the last two years, wherein only 25 convicts of military courts have been hanged. However, trials of around 150 civilians have been concluded by military courts during the last two years.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2016.


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