ISLAMABAD - The Senate last night passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill to try terrorism cases in military courts but failed to include safeguards ordered by the Supreme Court last week.

The bill was challenged by opposition leaders who said it was inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s recent judgment on the 21st Constitutional Amendment.

The constitutional amendment under which the military trial courts were established to fast track terrorism cases was upheld in the Supreme Court last week. Judges however also ruled that defendants have the right to fair trial and those convicted could appeal in a civil court.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill contradicted the Supreme Court ruling and its passage should be delayed for wider consultation.

He said that eight out of 13 judges held that trial by military courts were subject to certain safeguards.

“These safeguards included; one that a reference to military courts by the federal government was subject to judicial review; two, the military courts were bound to provide the accused with fair trial and reasonable procedural safeguards and three, the judgments of the military courts were subject to judicial review by the superior courts,” he said.

Babar said that the existing practice of military courts pronouncing death penalty against unnamed accused by unnamed judges and without any mention of charges, the case of the prosecution, the defence plea and disallowing independent observers militated against the requirement of adequate procedural safeguards.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif rejected his proposal and put the bill to the vote.

The bill had already been widely circulated and debated in the lower house and also had the support of an all parties conference. “So I oppose this suggestion,” he said.

Later, the house passed the bill with the majority and now it would be sent to the President for his final signatures to become law.

The Senate also passed the Cantonments (Amendment) Bill, 2015 unanimously that seeks to amend the Cantonments Ordinance, 2002. The chair through a majority of vote referred the National University of Medical Sciences Bill, 2015 to the relevant standing committee after Farhatullah Babar opposed the motion of the defence minister to get the Bill passed immediately.

Two lawmakers of the house raised their concerns over some recent actions of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the two key investigation agencies of the federal government, as part of their anti-graft campaign. They said that both the organizations were acting out of their jurisdiction.

Mukhtar Ahmed Damrah of PPP said NAB had overlooked corruption reports in some mega projects initiated by the federal and Punjab governments.

Kalsoom Perveen of PML-N pointed out that NAB misbehaved with the family of Senator Saifullah Bangash of PPP when it arrested his son from Lahore in a corruption case.

The chair put off the debate on the distribution formula of National Finance Commission (NFC) following the absence of any officer from finance and inter-provincial coordination ministries in the galleries who were supposed to take notes.