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Senate passed Military court bill

29 March, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Tuesday passed the 28th Constitutional Amendment Bill with a required two-third majority. The government-ally Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party opposed it and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) distanced itself from the entire session. Though PPP and other party senators expressed reservations, but they supported the bill. They said the government did nothing in the last two years to improve the existing judicial system, saying that there would be no need to extend military courts if the National Action Plan (NAP) was properly implemented.

The senators said that there was no option but to support the bill as the country was confronting several challenges. Critics of the military courts argued that the government needed to reform the entire judicial system and implement the National Action plan in letter and spirit.

Opposition Leader in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan claimed that someone else made the decision and pressed the government to get it passed from parliament.

The House gave legal cover to the military courts by passing the 28th Constitutional Amendment Bill with the two-third majority. The bill's passage by the Senate was necessary for military courts to be accorded constitutional cover.

Last week voting on the bill had been put off for six days after the government failed to get the support of a sufficient number of senators.

The bill will be now forwarded to the Presidency for approval. Once the President approves the amendment, the bill will become an Act, making two-year extension of army courts official. The extension would be recorded from January 7. The government and military leadership agreed on military courts after a deadly terror attack on a Peshawar school in December 2014.

However, the tenure expired in late 2016 after which the government moved the bill to extend the tenure.

The government held multiple sessions with political parties to build consensus on revival of the trial courts. The Senate has already passed amendments in Army Act, 1952, to make provision in the military law for trial of hardcore terrorists.

Meanwhile, the House also adopted a resolution to form a parliamentary committee on national security.

The panel, which will be announced by the National Assembly speaker in consultation with the Senate chairman, will monitor the progress on NAP, performance of military courts and the process of transition from military courts to civilian courts following the former's expiry after two years.

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