ISLAMABAD - The PTI-led coalition government would be in the catch-22 position on military courts extension for yet another term of two years as without the support of both PML-N and PPP it would be impossible for the government to get the constitutional amendment through from both the houses of the Parliament.

The military courts second term expired yesterday as these courts were established in January 2015 to try the civilians involved in terrorist activities in military courts.

But as the extension to the military courts established under a ‘sunset clause’ was made after threadbare debate and discussion in the Parliament on March 31, 2017 for another two years term, some legal experts opined that the term of these courts would now expire in March 31 this year instead of January 6. But at the same time there was a group of legal experts who were of the view that as following the extension of these courts through the 23rd Constitutional Amendment it was enforced retrospective effects from January 6 to give legal and constitutional cover to these courts which remained in operation during this period. 

The Army Public School Peshawar tragedy where terrorists had brutally killed students and teachers on December 16, 2014 provided the ground for the establishment of military courts to try the terrorists acquiring the shape of monstrous in the country.

Trying the civilians involved in terrorist activities in military courts was one of the corner stone of the 20-point National Action Plan the political leadership of the country had evolved with consensus.

The military courts were established through the 21st Constitutional Amendment in the first week of January 2015 for a period of two years for once, bringing amendments in certain clauses of the Constitution and Pakistan Army Act 1952.

The premise of military courts was the weak and inept judicial system to deal with jet-black terrorists with the recommendations that these courts would be established only for once for a period of two years and during this period the government would spruce up the anti-terrorist courts and other similar civilian forums to deal with the extra-ordinary situation.

But two years down the line the courts which were established under a ‘sunset clause’ had to be revived for another term because no corrective measures had been taken to spruce up the existing civil courts dealing with such type of cases.

The opposition parties had grilled the then PML-N government for its failure to take requisite measure to strengthen the anti-terrorist courts to deal with such cases which had once again compelled the Parliament to grant extension to these courts for another two years term.

People like Senator Raza Rabbani had termed it a darkest day for the Parliament at the time of granting extension to military courts in March 2017 and had become emotional while voting for what he termed the piece of legislation usurping the basic human rights and civil liberties.

At the time of granting extension to military courts the Parliamentarians mainly from opposition parties had stressed the need of taking measures to strengthen the existing judicial system so that it could effectively play its role in any circumstances and government need not the clutches of extra-ordinary measures like establishment of military courts to deal with extra-ordinary situation.

Once again the government, this time led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf was standing at crossroads, intending to grant yet another extension to military courts to accomplish its unfinished task, because over the past two years no concrete steps were taken to strengthen the civil courts to effectively handle the cases against terrorists jet-black terrorists.

But the situation is altogether different now as both Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) seem in no mood to provide a helping hand to government to get another extension for military courts under the same arrangements.

Even with the thin majority in lower house of the Parliament and in minority in Senate the ruling PTI seems confident to find some way forward on the issue and hoped that major Parliamentary parties would extend support to them as it is a national cause and not particular to the ruling alliance.

Insiders aware of the developments taking place on this front informed The Nation that the PTI government was also working on an alternate plan as well and in case of failure to get the support of opposition parties for another extension in military courts they would bring a piece of legislation to grant similar powers to the existing ant-terrorist courts.

Meanwhile, giving a progress report of the military courts over the past two years, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) through a statement informed that the federal government had referred to military courts 717 cases.  About 546 out of these 717 cases had been finalised by the military courts.

Out of these 546 finalised cases, 310 terrorists had been awarded death penalty while 234 were awarded rigorous imprisonment of varied durations ranging from life imprisonment to 5-year imprisonment. Two accused had also been acquitted.

About 56 people from among these 310 convicts have been executed after completion of legal process which included their appeals in superior courts and rejection of mercy petitions both by the army chief and the president.

Execution of the remaining 254 terrorists is pending completion of legal process in higher courts.