Pakistan government on Friday introduced a constitutional amendment bill in Parliament to revive the controversial special military courts for trying “hardcore” civilians, charged with terrorism. Apart from changes sought in the constitution to set up such courts, another bill was presented to seek amendment in the army law to enable military to regulate these courts.
Law Minister Zahid Hamid moved both the bills in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.
Radio Pakistan reported that the Minister said on the occasion that in 2015, the parliament had passed two bills including Twenty-first (Amendment) Bill, 2015 and “The Pakistan Army [Amendment] Bill, 2015 to set up military courts to hear the cases of hardcore criminals.
He said positive results were received through these steps.
The Minister said the country is still going through extraordinary circumstances and facing many challenges. Therefore, it is necessary that these measures will continue. He pointed out that under these bills the steps taken in 2015 will get extension and the government wants to pass these bills with consensus.
However, there is opposition by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to the bills, as the party insisted that the tenure of the courts should be for one year instead two as proposed by the government.
The PPP also wants a civilian judge to sit with the military judge to hear the cases and giving the defendant a right to appeal in the high courts. PPP boycotted Friday’s proceedings which forced the government to delay the voting on the bills. The voting is expected on Monday when the house will convene after weekend break.
The government would try to win the support of the PPP as it is trying to pass the key change in the law with consensus.
The previous law passed in 2015 to set up military courts for two years was unanimously adopted.
The amendment was criticised for handing significant judicial control to the powerful military, which has ruled the country of 190 million people for about half of its existence.
Lawmakers and the military argued that civilian courts were too slow for terrorism cases needed to be dealt with swiftly, since many judges, fearful of revenge, were reluctant to deliver verdicts.
A total of 275 cases have been referred to the military courts and 12 convicts executed over two years, the interior ministry says. The tribunals have sentenced 161 people to death and handed jail terms, mostly life sentences, to 116 people.