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21st Amendment delayed due to JUI-F concerns

06 January, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: The passage of the 21st Constitutional Amendment and amendment in Army Act was delayed on Monday 5,January,2015 apparently to remove the apprehensions of government ally JUI-F on certain issues regarding religious seminaries.

A broader consensus emerged in the National Assembly on the establishment military courts, as parliamentary parties agreed to swallow what they see as a bitter pill for the sake of security of the country and suggested that it should be time-specific as agreed in the APC. The delay in the passage of the 21st Amendment was also being attributed to PPP's founding chairman ZA Bhutto's birth anniversary and to ensure the required strength needed for this purpose.

Seizing the opportunity parliamentary parties in the Lower House of parliament showed agreement on the larger issue of curbing terrorism, however, differed on some specifics incorporated in the National Action Plan. The treasury side represented by Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, while justifying the need for establishment of military courts, said that the step has been taken out of compulsion because in a democratic and peaceful country this step can't be imagined what to talk about stepping up such courts.

He said that country is passing through extraordinary circumstances that warrant extraordinary steps, and military courts are required because efforts to create space in the existing judicial system could not succeed. Religious parties JUI-F and JI, however focused on what they believe is targeting of religious seminaries and said that this should not be done at the behest of international powers. JUI-F chief Fazalur Rahman cautioned against what he called sinister designs against such seminaries and said that these seminaries should be taken on board instead of being crushed.

MQM's Dr Farooq Sattar was more vocal on the need to de-radicalise society and urged against relaying on the military courts. He even suggested that apart from de-radicalising society, the country should also be de-weaponised. He even called for taking action against those who tried to stop forcibly the death anniversary of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer in Lahore. Mahmood Khan Achakzai said that parliament has agreed to pass the law on establishment of military courts out of compulsion. However, he called for pledging that once their task is over, there should not be any extension, as it would be a betrayal with those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of democracy in the country.

Earlier, after taking the floor, Nisar said that no one should be afraid of military courts as these would only try those who are found involved in terrorist activities and said that no political worker, businessman or media person would ever be tried by them. "A strong mechanism would be put in place to filter the cases to be referred to military courts," he said. Nisar said that one should not be in illusion that there is any quick-fix solution to terrorism and said that it would be a long fight against terrorists and all should be prepared for it.

About religious seminaries, he suggested that the people related to these seminaries should also come forward themselves to cooperate with the government and said their should not be any misgiving about it. Nisar said army is fighting an enemy that has no moral, human or religious boundaries to act inside these contrary to military which practices. all constitutional requirements to defend the country. MQM Farooq Sattar, later apparently signalling to Fazalur Rahman said that religious parties should come forward in this cause and even naming Fazalur Rahman said that he should now openly come forward against terrorism.

He said that an ideological line has been drawn as who is with the country and who is with terrorists. Fazl later responding to Sattar's remarks said that he and religious seminaries didn't need any certification from any corner and advised him that whose history speaks against peace should avoid giving such remarks. He said that being democrat, it was difficult decision to support the military courts. However he supported with it when all other parties agreed to do so for national unity. He sounded bitter when he talked about targeting the religious seminaries and said that it was unwise to only wage against those who take the arms in the name of religion and questioned what about others who do the same in the name of their nationality and language.

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