ISLAMABAD - A multi-party conference arranged by the Pakistan People’s Party on Saturday failed to develop a consensus on the extension to military courts and the matter was left to legal experts to come up with a way forward on the issue.

In a brief chat with the media after the meeting, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who co-chaired the conference with his father Asif Ali Zardari, admitted that the parties failed to evolve consensus on extension to military courts .

The contentious matters would be settled after consultation with legal and constitutional experts, he said. He, however, did not give any timeline for the consultation process, pouring water on the government’s plan to get a draft legislation passed by both houses of the Parliament in next few days.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had already distanced themselves from the PPP called conference while the ruling PML-N was not invited.

Besides some junior players in the opposition, coalition partners of ruling PML-N, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal and the National Party leaders attended the meeting.

Bilawal said that the conference was attended by over 13 political parties. He said that apart from military courts , integration of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) also came under discussion.

He said there must be a clear definition of a terrorist organisation and mere mention of words like terrorist organisation or terrorist group seemed inadequate.

The PPP chairman said that for ensuring a fair trial it was necessary to allow the accused to engage a defence counsel of his choice, granting him the right to appeal and the presence of observers in a military court.

During the course of the discussion, the PPP opposed the new timeframe (two years extension) of military courts . After consultation with other parties, they announced proposing a constitutional amendment in this regard.

PPP chairman said that his own party and some other parties have concerns over several issues including the military courts , the NAB and Fata reforms.

“We [PPP] are against military courts… If there is a need for military courts then we will present a draft after consultations with legal experts.”

He said that the government had completely failed to implement the NAP and displayed criminal negligence in handling issues falling in its purview.

Bilawal called for immediate merger of Fata with KP and said that it would be a great injustice if it was further delayed.

The participants of the meeting had divergent views with JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman saying that the definition of terrorism should be revisited and be delinked from religion or any particular sect. He said that they need to deal with all militant groups with the same yardstick and stop looking at terrorism through a tainted lens.

Zardari also demanded a clear definition of a terrorist organisation and on the recommendations of the participants tasked Senator Farooq H Naek to urgently finalise a draft bill to be tabled in case the extension to military courts seemed inevitable.

He also asked Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah and Leader of Opposition in Senate Aitzaz Ahsan to share the draft proposal with other political parties.

Zardari also deplored the non-implementation of various provisions of the NAP and called for the accountability of those responsible.

Later talking to the media outside Bilawal House, Senator Farhatullah Babar elaborating the party’s reservation about military courts stating that merely mentioning a terrorist organisation or a terrorist group was inadequate, and these terms required to be explained so as to prevent their misuse.

He said that for ensuring fair trial as contained in article 10 A of the constitution it was necessary to allow the accused to engage defence counsel of his choice, grant them the right to appeal and assure the presence of observers in a military trial court.

The senator said questions have been asked about how jet black terrorist has been defined, how many of 161 accused sentenced to death were jet black terrorists, how many were allowed to engaged a lawyer of choice, how many were denied access to the charge sheet, a copy of the judgement and evidence?

Farhatullah Babar also asked as to how many terrorism accused had been sentenced merely on the basis of confession, without supporting evidence, and what precaution had been taken to ensure that the said confessions were not extracted through torture?

He also asked as to how many of the accused sentenced during the last 2 years were those who were brought out into the open under the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation 2011.

Babar said that the setting up of the military courts will only deflect the attention from the real issues in reforming the criminal justice system and that was one reason why the PPP opposed it.

Elaborating on the party policy on Fata reforms, he said that the president, as the overlord and lawgiver in Fata, and the FCR are two basic pillars of colonial structure but the reform package failed in demolishing these remnants of colonial structures.

The features of Riwaj Act, which would replace the FCR, have not been made public, he said, and demanded that it must be brought before the parliament as the first step towards enabling the Parliament to legislate on Fata if it was to be mainstreamed.

With the introduction of Riwaj Act and the ultimate merger of Fata with KP, the province will have three sets of laws; one for the districts, another for PATA and the Riwaj Act for Fata. “Multiple laws in multiple areas are never considered a good thing.”

The multi-party conference was attended by heads and representatives of 13 political parties including Chaudhry Shujat Hussain of PML-Q, Fazlur Rehman of JUI, Aftab Ahmed Sherpao of QWP, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of ANP, Sirajul Haq of JI, MNA Shah Jee Gull Afridi of Fata, Senator Mir Israrullah Zehri of BNP (Awami), Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo of National Party, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed of Awami Muslim League, Sahibzada Hamid Raza of Sunni Ittehad Council, Khurram Nawaz Gandapur of PAT, Syed Shujjat Bukhari of Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqqa Jafria and Allama Raja Nasir Abbas of MWM.

Besides the above said PPP leaders, the party team was represented by Farooq Naek, Senator Sherry Rehman, PPP Secretary General Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Senator Sardar Ali Khan, Senator A Qayyum Soomro, Political secretary Rukhsana Bangash and Fauzia Habib.

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asked about how jet black terrorist has been defined, how many of 161 accused sentenced to death were jet black terrorists, how many were allowed to engaged a lawyer of choice, how many were denied access to the charge sheet, a copy of the judgement and evidence?

Farhatullah Babar also asked as to how many terrorism accused had been sentenced merely on the basis of confession, without supporting evidence, and what precaution had been taken to ensure that the said confessions were not extracted through torture?

He also asked as to how many of the accused sentenced during the last 2 years were those who were brought out into the open under the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation 2011.

Babar said that the setting up of the military courts will only deflect the attention from the real issues in reforming the criminal justice system and that was one reason why the PPP opposed it.

Elaborating on the party policy on Fata reforms, he said that the president, as the overlord and lawgiver in Fata, and the FCR are two basic pillars of colonial structure but the reform package failed in demolishing these remnants of colonial structures.

The features of Riwaj Act, which would replace the FCR, have not been made public, he said, and demanded that it must be brought before the parliament as the first step towards enabling the Parliament to legislate on Fata if it was to be mainstreamed.

With the introduction of Riwaj Act and the ultimate merger of Fata with KP, the province will have three sets of laws; one for the districts, another for PATA and the Riwaj Act for Fata. “Multiple laws in multiple areas are never considered a good thing.”

The multi-party conference was attended by heads and representatives of 13 political parties including Chaudhry Shujat Hussain of PML-Q, Fazlur Rehman of JUI, Aftab Ahmed Sherpao of QWP, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of ANP, Sirajul Haq of JI, MNA Shah Jee Gull Afridi of Fata, Senator Mir Israrullah Zehri of BNP (Awami), Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo of National Party, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed of Awami Muslim League, Sahibzada Hamid Raza of Sunni Ittehad Council, Khurram Nawaz Gandapur of PAT, Syed Shujjat Bukhari of Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqqa Jafria and Allama Raja Nasir Abbas of MWM.

Besides the above said PPP leaders, the party team was represented by Farooq Naek, Senator Sherry Rehman, PPP Secretary General Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Senator Sardar Ali Khan, Senator A Qayyum Soomro, Political secretary Rukhsana Bangash and Fauzia Habib.