A statement by former premier Nawaz Sharif on the setting up of military courts in Karachi drew an angry reaction in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Foremost among Sharif’s critics was Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, terming the comments made by the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) a reflection of ‘double standards’.
“I feel sorry that Mian Sahib wants military courts in Karachi …How can it happen? There is democracy in Pakistan not military dictatorship,” said Gilani in a speech he delivered to the house winding up a debate on the creation of new provinces.
Sharif had said in Karachi on Monday that he had established military courts to improve the volatile law and order situation in the country’s financial capital and would do it again if needed. Sharif said that the courts would ensure speedy trial of criminals and miscreants behind the volatile law and order in the city.
Gilani said he was shocked to hear the statement by his predecessor. “There is no need for military courts in democracy. If we create an environment of martial law, what is the difference between a political government and dictatorship?” Gilani asked.
Gilani also used the occasion to reiterate a stance taken in a fiery speech on the assembly’s floor late last year.
“The military is never needed for anything related to the running of administration except when it is called by the civilian leadership to assist it,” the premier added.
Gilani reminded members from Sharif’s PML-N that his government had already deployed Paramilitary Rangers to overcome the ethnic and political violence that has swept Karachi during the first half of this year. “This has worked well and is working,” the premier said.
Similarly, members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the central player in Karachi’s politics, also castigated the statement, saying it was brutal in the past to give the military right to try criminals.
MQM deputy parliamentary leader Haider Abbass Rizvi asked the PML-N chief to explain how he expected justice from military courts.
“I ask Mian Sahib, under protest, why he wants to impose this on the people of Karachi again. Why doesn’t he try military courts in Punjab this time,” he added.
However, in an attempt to defuse the controversy, PML-N’s Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi said Sharif never said he would set up military courts. Rather, he added, these words were wrongly attributed to him by the media.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2012.