ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly yesterday passed the amendments to revive military courts for another two years with an overwhelming majority but failed to get a unanimous vote.

The house passed ‘The Constitution (Twenty Eighth Amendment)’ and ‘The Pakistan Army (Amendment)’ bills with 255 votes in favour and four against.

Government partner PkMAP members, Mehmood Achakzai, Abdul Qahar and Naseema Hafeez, and independent MNA Jamshed Dasti voted against the bills moved by Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

Another ally of ruling PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) abstained from voting as their proposed amendments for excluding the words ‘religion’ and ‘sect’ were not accepted.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, after a long absence from the parliament, remained present in the house to oversee the vote for the important legislation.

The previous two-year term of the military courts, established to expedite terrorism cases, expired earlier this year and main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party was against reviving these courts.

It was of the opinion that government was supposed to revitalise and streamline the civilian judicial system during the earlier two years period of military courts so that terrorism trials do not face unnecessary delays and fair judicial process is ensured at the same time.

The House yesterday also passed a resolution for formation of a Parliamentary committee to oversee the military courts, as PPP had proposed for a monitoring body to keep a parliamentary check.

Winding up the debate, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that government in consensus with all the parliamentary political parties decided to revive the courts. He said 15 meetings of parliamentary leaders and five meetings of the technical committee were held in this regard.

“The decision has been taken because the country is facing extraordinary challenges and the step will help to restore peace in the country,” he said.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid said, “Keeping in view the extraordinary situation and circumstances constituting grave threat to the security and integrity of Pakistan from various terrorist groups, armed groups, wings and militia or their members, the Constitution (Twenty-first Amendment) Act, 2015 was passed” for holding terrorism trials under the Pakistan Army Act, 1952.

He said necessary amendments were also made in the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 through the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015.

The 28th Constitutional (Amendment) Bill stated that “these measures [establishment of trials in military courts] have yielded positive results in combating terrorism. It is, therefore, proposed to continue these special measures for a further period of two years through this Constitution Amendment Bill”.

The constitutional amendment will today (Wednesday) be presented in the upper house, where it will also need 2/3 majority for the passage.

It was stated that the aim of the resolution passed for formation of a parliamentary committee to oversee the military courts is to discuss issues relating to national security of urgent nature.

The aim is also “to present periodical reports of the committee to vote the houses of Majlis-e-Shura and to monitor process of the transfer of cases from military courts to the civil courts through criminal justice reforms”, according to the resolution text.

The committee will also periodically review, monitor and oversee implementation of National Action Plan (NAP).

Naeema Kishwar from JUI-F, speaking on amendments, said government had not accepted their proposed amendment so they preferred to abstain.

The bill that was passed proposed to refer the cases of only those terrorists to these courts for trial who were involved in terrorism activities while using the name of “religion” or “sect”, something unacceptable to the JUI-F, which sought deletion of words ‘religion’ and ‘sect’.

MNA Jamshed Dasti, on his turn, proposed to also try such persons in military courts as would ‘defile the Prophet (PBUH) or act against the integrity of Pakistan or commit financial terrorism’. Law Minister Zahid Hamid rejected his amendments.

PML (Zia) leader Ejazul Haq supported the government. He said that military courts should continue to work till the elimination of terrorism from the country.

ANP’s MNA Ghulam Ahmad Bilour also supported the bill, saying that elimination of terrorist mindset is necessary for eradication of terrorism from the country.

Winding up the debate, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that government in consensus with all the parliamentary political parties decided to revive the courts. He said 15 meetings of parliamentary leaders and five meetings of the technical committee were held in this regard.

“The decision has been taken because the country is facing extraordinary challenges and the step will help to restore peace in the country,” he said.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid said, “Keeping in view the extraordinary situation and circumstances constituting grave threat to the security and integrity of Pakistan from various terrorist groups, armed groups, wings and militia or their members, the Constitution (Twenty-first Amendment) Act, 2015 was passed” for holding terrorism trials under the Pakistan Army Act, 1952.

He said necessary amendments were also made in the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 through the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015.

The 28th Constitutional (Amendment) Bill stated that “these measures [establishment of trials in military courts] have yielded positive results in combating terrorism. It is, therefore, proposed to continue these special measures for a further period of two years through this Constitution Amendment Bill”.

The constitutional amendment will today (Wednesday) be presented in the upper house, where it will also need 2/3 majority for the passage.

It was stated that the aim of the resolution passed for formation of a parliamentary committee to oversee the military courts is to discuss issues relating to national security of urgent nature.

The aim is also “to present periodical reports of the committee to vote the houses of Majlis-e-Shura and to monitor process of the transfer of cases from military courts to the civil courts through criminal justice reforms”, according to the resolution text.

The committee will also periodically review, monitor and oversee implementation of National Action Plan (NAP).

Naeema Kishwar from JUI-F, speaking on amendments, said government had not accepted their proposed amendment so they preferred to abstain.

The bill that was passed proposed to refer the cases of only those terrorists to these courts for trial who were involved in terrorism activities while using the name of “religion” or “sect”, something unacceptable to the JUI-F, which sought deletion of words ‘religion’ and ‘sect’.

MNA Jamshed Dasti, on his turn, proposed to also try such persons in military courts as would ‘defile the Prophet (PBUH) or act against the integrity of Pakistan or commit financial terrorism’. Law Minister Zahid Hamid rejected his amendments.

PML (Zia) leader Ejazul Haq supported the government. He said that military courts should continue to work till the elimination of terrorism from the country.

ANP’s MNA Ghulam Ahmad Bilour also supported the bill, saying that elimination of terrorist mindset is necessary for eradication of terrorism from the country.