ISLAMABAD - The fate of special military courts and lives of dozens of terrorists sentenced to death will be sealed today when Pakistan’s Supreme Court rules on two constitutional amendments.

The verdict will also shape the future relationship between country’s government, legislature and judiciary.

The case is about 21st Amendment, under which military courts have been set up and the law enforcement agencies have been given special powers to effectively fight against terrorism.

The second amendment in question is the 18th amendment which gives parliament a role in the appointment of judges of superior judiciary.

A Full Court headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk after hearing the parties for two months had reserved its judgment on June 26 this year. The judgment is being announced 10 days before the chief justice retires on August 16, and dissenting notes are expected from 3-4 judges on this key case.

Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan Bar Council, Lahore High Court Bar Association, SHCBA, and 11 other bar councils and associations of the country as well as a few individuals had challenged these two amendments.

Khalid Anwar represented the federation while Attorney General Salman Butt, as a chief law officer, assisted the court during the proceedings. The advocate generals of all the provinces and Islamabad had adopted the arguments of attorney general and the federation counsel.

The Full Bench before the hearing the arguments on 18th and 21st amendments had stayed the executions of Noor Saeed, Haider Ali, Murad Khan, Inayatullah, Israruddin and Qari Zahir who were awarded death sentences by the military courts .

During the hearing, which was conducted on the daily basis, the arguments were mainly on the issues of basic structure and independence of judiciary and whether the parliament has power to amend the constitution.

In 18th Amendment the focus was on the appointment of judges under Article 175A. The petitioners opposed the role of parliamentary committee in the appointment of judges, saying that it affected the independence of judiciary.

The federation and the provinces counsels argued that parliamentary committee does not affect the judiciary’s independence. The parliament under Article 239 has the power to amend the constitution and the court could not interfere in this matter, they maintained.

The petitioners had requested the apex court to provide guideline and interpret the Article 2A, 4, 5, 9, 10, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 70(4), 175, 185, 190, 201, 203, 204 of the constitution after the passage of 21st constitutional amendment as well as Pakistan Army (amendment) Act 2015.

They prayed to strike down the 21st amendment because it jeopardizes the independence of judiciary and violates the basic features of the constitution. They also claimed that military courts take away the jurisdiction of superior courts and abridge the fundamental rights of the citizen.

The federal government on the other hand had contended that the courts in Pakistan have never followed the doctrine of basic structure that bars amendments to the constitution, adding that in 1985, it was expressly provided that there was no limitation on this power of the parliament in the form of Article 239 (6).

It also argues that the 21st Amendment does not impinge upon the independence of judiciary and the inclusion of certain laws in the First Schedule does not negate it. The Objectives Resolution, which was passed by the first constituent assembly of the country and serves as a guide to the nature and structure of any constitution to be formed in the country, does not constitute a fundamental norm of law, the government maintained in its reply filed in the court. It added that Article 2-A is no more a supra-constitutional document that stand at a footing superior to the constitution, of which it is a part.

The federation pleaded that for the sake of all those who have sacrificed their lives in war against terrorism and for the future of this country the people have spoken through their elected representatives, therefore, the petitions have no merit and these must be dismissed.