Military courts: Opposition eyes govt effort with suspicion

Published: January 24, 2017
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ISLAMABAD: The opposition is willing to support extension in military courts’ tenure, but it sees government efforts to forge political consensus on the issue with distrust, while at the same time accusing it of apparent lack of seriousness.

Contrary to general perception, the opposition parties are not opposed to the idea, instead they want the government to take initiative in this regard, discussions with political leaders suggested.

“They (the government functionaries) are trying to use our shoulder for firing the gun,” commented a key opposition lawmaker, requesting anonymity.

“It is their responsibility, not ours. We do not want to assume the lead role in allowing military courts to continue. It is their (the government’s) job to do so.”

According to this lawmaker, the government wanted to give an impression that it extended the tenure of military courts on the advice of opposition parties.

“Why should we assume this responsibility?”

Another senior lawmaker of a mainstream opposition party agreed with the assertion that the opposition had conveyed to the government that it should take a leading role in this regard “The opposition will support it when the related bill lands in Parliament.”

The opposition’s demand to the government to share all progress on this front in the upcoming meeting scheduled to be held on January 31, including performance of military courts, steps taken for strengthening criminal justice system, seminaries reforms, implementation of National Action Plan (NAP) and related initiatives aimed at putting the government in a “position of centrality”, he said.

“The equation needs to be like this: The government convinced the opposition for parliamentary legislation and not the other way around.”

During the previous two rounds of talks held between the government and the opposition, including the PPP, PTI and JI had insisted that the government’s efforts lacked “political will, sincerity and seriousness”.

The government’s side was led by Speaker of the National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq.

It was also conveyed to the government that it needed to mend ways with its allies, including the JUI-F and PkMAP, before expecting support from the opposition on the issue.

This was confirmed by PTI’s Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi on various occasions.

He said that the government was deliberately delaying to keep the issue lingering.

“It is not the opposition, but the government is playing a double game. You can clearly see the contradiction: the federal law minister is all for military courts while the Punjab law minister opposes them. We have clearly told them, they need to put their house in order … take their allies on board on this issue. The Maulana and Achakzai are opposing the extension and the government expects us to acquiesce. How come? The government representatives say they will take care of their allies. January 31 is not too far off. We will see what they have to offer.”

A government functionary said the opposition was willing to support the government on this issue if the top leadership of the ruling party secured the support of its allies.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2017.

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