ISLAMABAD - A day after the parliament reached a broad-based consensus over re-establishment of the military courts; the issue remained one of the hot topics of discussion in the Senate on Friday.
Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani described it as an unfortunate development and expressed his annoyance over the government apathy for not taking steps to reform the criminal justice system in the country it had promised two years ago.
He said that two years ago he had to vote against his conscience on the 21st Amendment, under which the military courts were established in January 2015 to tackle the menace of terrorism in the country.
Rabbani noted that he had gathered through newspapers that an unfortunate agreement had been reached between my party [PPP] and the government on military courts.
“I think we are again on the same path,” Rabbani quipped.
He was referring to the agreement the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz reached with the main opposition party in the parliament the PPP over the reestablishment of the military courts on Thursday.
The presence of the finance and law ministers, the leader of the house, and the leader of the opposition compels me to remind you that two years ago when the military courts were being established, the ruling party promised to reform the justice system before expiry of the sun down clause.
Rabbani said, had the government taken appropriate steps, we would not have seen this development again.
“I have been in the Senate for more than 12 years but have never been as ashamed as I am today, and I cast my vote against my conscience,” when voting for the military courts” he maintained.
He said that on January 18, 2016, a senate committee passed two landmark pieces of legislation, the Witnesses Protection Bill 2016 and the Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill 2016, hoping they would serve as catalysts for the government to adopt appropriate legislative measures for reforms in the country’s judicial system so that the civilian courts could try hardcore terrorists.
“We had passed these laws well ahead of the expiry of a sunset clause inserted in the 21st Amendment. But the government did not take the desired steps and are facing the same situation today,” he added.
Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar stood up and said “Mr chairman we all share your sentiments”.
“It was the desire of every political party…but it is being done due to unique circumstances,” Dar said.
The finance minister later referred to a sudden rise in the number of terrorist incidents in the country in February, soon after military courts ceased to function on January 7, 2017.
He also promised on the floor of the house that this time, the government would take measures so that the new extension in the military courts becomes the last one.
Ishaq Dar also handed over an amended draft of the proposed 28th Amendment and subsequent changes in the draft bill on Pakistan Army Act, 1952 to Aitzaz Ahsan. Both amended bills would be presented in the National Assembly on Monday.
Law Minister Zahid Hamid said that both the bills the chair had referred to were under consideration.
Aitzaz Ahsan vowed that his party had once again had decided to support the military courts, but with certain reservations.
Ahsan said he still had doubts that the PML-N would fulfil its promises, but the PPP would become part of the process due to the sensitivities involved in the country’s war against terrorism.
He said the military courts were part of the National Action Plan (NAP) chalked out after December 2014 terrorist attack on Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar.
“We hope the other 19 points are implemented before the expiry of the next two-year term,” he concluded.
Earlier, the law minister informed the house census in FATA had been rescheduled because of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
“Now the census in FATA will be conducted in the second phase of the sixth census”, said Zahid Hamid.
The House was adjourned to meet again on Monday.
Rabbani deeply unhappy over mily courts extensionThis news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 18-Mar-2017 here.