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Senators opposes military courts

30 December, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The Upper House on Monday strongly opposed formation of military courts and warned that formation of such courts for speedy trial of terrorists and constitutional amendment for this purpose will hit basic structure of constitution.

Taking part in a debate on the TTP terrorist attack on schoolchildren, PPP’s Senator Raza Rabbani blamed successive governments for terrorism, especially the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), saying it did not release required funds to the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and did not implement the National Internal Security Policy. “The collective sharing of intelligence which was the backbone of the so-called policy has not materialized. NACTA, which was supposed to be the key body in the policy lies ineffective,” he lamented.

Rabbani said that executive has been separated from the judiciary and courts as defined in constitution under articles 175, 203, 212 and 225, adding armed forces have been dealt with under articles 243, 244 and 245 of the constitution. “Does it make sense to bypass altogether a well developed, civilian lead judicial system simply because that systems implementation may be flawed...the judges cannot convict or keep in detention terrorist if the administration does not provide the necessary evidence before them,” he added. He said the normal courts can deal with the cases of terrorism.

The military courts are governed by the Army Act, 1952, the senator said, adding that these courts deal with scheduled offences as mentioned in the Act. He said that the last time such courts were established was under the PML-N government in 1998 through an ordinance, allowing the establishment of military courts to try civilians for heinous crimes in Sindh. However, he said these courts were declared unconstitutional and struck down by the Supreme Court on February 17, 1999 and their cases were transferred to anti-terrorism courts (ATCs).

Rabbani recalled that in April 1977, these courts were also established to try civilians, but they were declared illegal by the Lahore High Court in the Darvesh Arbi case. “Both prime ministers were subsequently removed by martial law – one by Gen Ziaul Haq and the other by Gen Pervez Musharraf,” he added. He said there is nothing new in the newly formed National Action Plan, as it is a replica of NACTA, which is now being activated after losing hundreds of precious human lives in Peshawar school terrorist attack.

He maintained that the National Internal Security Policy has failed miserably to take off and now the government must inform after parliament 15-days as the problem is not the law, but there has been a lack of applications of the law. “The government says it will block hate literature. The law is already there. The question is of implementation. In the next 15 days, let us see if there are any raids on presses that print it or those who distributed are arrested,” he added.

Rabbani said the government should inform parliament after 15 days what actions it took against banned militant outfits working under new names, and the mode through which they get funding from abroad. He said that anti-terrorist force was announced nine months ago, but no action has been taken since then. He also challenged the interior minister’s claim that 90 percent seminaries were registered, saying there are 400 unregistered seminaries in Islamabad only what to talk of other cities.

He said European Union has no business to interfere in Pakistan’s internal affairs and its demand for a ban on the hangings is uncalled for. “It is a different matter that I am not agrees that these executions are a solution but most certainly I cannot allow any foreign country to dictate Pakistan’s internal affairs,” he maintained.

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