Amid surge in militancy: Govt shores up support for military courts

Finance minister call parliamentary leaders and requests wide consensus over move

Irfan Ghauri February 19, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Following a fresh wave of militancy, the government has accelerated the process of building consensus among political parties to pass a constitutional amendment enabling the re-establishment of military courts for speedy trials of suspected terrorists.

On Saturday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar called parliamentary leaders including Maulana Fazalur Rahman, Naveed Qamar, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao and Maulana Attaur Rahman and to request them for a prompt decision.

“The minister also earlier made a phone call to National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq asking him to facilitate early convening of a meeting of the parliamentary committee on the subject of military courts so that a concrete decision in the matter could be taken at the earliest” said an official handout issued by the finance minister’s media office.

The speaker has convened five meetings of heads of parliamentary parties in his chamber. After the last meeting, held two days ago, the speaker had announced that a sub-panel would redraft and vet the proposed 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

The subcommittee was scheduled to meet on Feb 22 while the main panel comprising leaders of all the parties were due to meet on Feb 27.

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However, after the recent surge in terrorist attacks, it is likely that the schedule will be redrawn.

Military courts were set up in the country through a special provision in the constitution after a barbaric attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014.

Set up for a period of two years, their term expired on January 7. Political parties had certain reservations over extending the tenure of military courts. But after an upsurge in terrorism it is likely that parliament will again amend the constitution and introduce a sun-set clause allowing functioning of military courts for a specific period.

Meanwhile, an official statement issued from Dar’s office said that during his telephone calls the minister undesrcored the need for full consensus in this matter and said that a prompt decision was vital to counter the fresh wave of militancy that had gripped the country during the last few days.

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Referring to the recent incidents in Fata, Peshawar, Lahore, Quetta, Awaran, and Sehwan, the minister said that it was heart wrenching to see so many precious lives being lost in gory incidents of terror in all the four provinces.

“Continuation of the military courts is essential for ensuring continuation of the momentum of anti-terrorism campaign and the political leadership in parliament needs to show unity as well as complete unanimity of views on this issue. There can be no compromise on the safety and security of the people and the country,” the minister remarked.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2017.