ISLAMABAD -  The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) can support the extension to military courts if (the government proposed) draft law “looks nice and is logically amended”, a senior party leader said on Sunday.

PPP Vice-President Senator Sherry Rehman told The Nation that the government could not amend the constitution through a joint session and they needed to take opposing parties into confidence.

“The PPP is against terrorism. We have lost our leader (Benazir Bhutto). We oppose terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. However, the establishment of the military courts needs a consensus and we should know how they will work in a democracy,” she said.

She believed the military courts were essentially a compromise – keeping in view the growing frequency of terrorist attacks – but the government’s haste could dent the democratic image of the country.

The PPP leader said that the party’s opposition to the government’s move – backed by several other parties – was not egoistic in nature but a “principled” position.

“The law should look nice. If they (the government) can convince and amend it, we will not oppose it for the sake of opposition,” she said.

The PPP had hosted a multi-party conference over the weekend to discuss the issues of extension to the military courts , the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) and mainstreaming of the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata). Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were not invited to the meeting.

After the multi-party conference, PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto said legal experts would be consulted before taking a final decision on the military courts .

Senator Rehman said that a joint session cannot pass a constitutional amendment. “We are working on a draft that corrects the government's draft. Military courts are never a democratic option but terrorism is one battle that the PPP cannot compromise on, and we need to ensure that the toolkit for fighting terrorism is as comprehensive as it is sustainable for the ordinary people,” she said.

“We have never been apologetic or equivocal about fighting either terrorism or violent extremism, but this is not just a kinetic fight, nor should this be the military's responsibility alone.”

Rehman said that the civilian leadership should have been taken on board at the highest level by the government and “we would have brought our considerable political and constitutional experience to the issue because it's a long war, not just one battle, and ultimately it’s a fight against the mindset that excludes and militates against tolerance, peace and diversity.”

At the multi-party conference, former president Asif Ali Zardari demanded a clear definition of a terrorist organisation and tasked Senator Farooq H Naek to finalise a draft bill on behalf of the party before sharing it with other parties.

PPP leader Senator Farhatullah Babar said that his party would not support the military courts under the government’s plan. “If they want to pass it without us, it will be a number game. They can’t pass an amendment in a joint session so they know it will be difficult (for the government) in the Senate,” he told The Nation.

Babar said that the PPP was finalising a draft on the military courts which would be shared with other parties for consensus.

“They cannot bulldoze any amendment. There is a process (that) they have to follow.  We want the whole process to be clear,” he said.

The lawmaker said that the PPP only wanted that the military courts were used for the purpose they were established for. “They should not be misused. The government should not rush it,” he said.

The senator said that the death penalties handed down by the military courts in the past have been subjection to question. “The trials and sentences should be transparent,” he said.

He said that convictions merely on the basis of confessions could be controversial as confessions could also be extracted through torture.

The PPP, he said, opposes the military courts as this deflected the attention from reforming the criminal justice system.