ISLAMABAD - The revival of the military courts was further delayed till next week as the Senate on Wednesday postponed the approval of 28th Constitutional Amendment Bill due to lack of required number of votes needed to amend the constitution.

The government could only move half the distance for the revival of military courts as the house passed the Pakistan Army (Amend) Bill 2017 with majority through voice vote — one of the laws required to revive the courts to try civilians under terror charges. The govt had to face embarrassment for its failure to get pass the other law.

The other law – 28th Constitutional Amend Bill, 2017, which would be numbered as 23rd Constitutional Amendment after its passage, could not be passed as the govt, despite its hectic efforts failed to make sure presence of 70 senators, the required number to fulfil benchmark of two-third majority in the house necessary to bring amendment in the constitution.

Chairman Senate postponed the approval of the bill till next Tuesday when the house will meet again after Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq said that some members were out of the country and they would return next week.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his rare presence in the house almost after a gap of two years heard speeches of some of the lawmakers on the revival of the military courts.

Soon after sensing the situation that the house lacked required presence of members, the PM left the house without speaking a single word on the floor.

Prime Minister Nawaz last came to the house on April 16, 2015.

The government on Tuesday had managed to get passed the two keys bill from the National Assembly that are required to revive military courts that had seized to exist on January 6, 2017 because of having sun set clause of two years.

After the Senate will pass both the bills, these courts would stand revived for another period of two years starting from January 7, 2017.

However, the house passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2017, which is required to facilitate the setting up of the military courts, with majority through a voice vote amid opposition of the three political parties in the house including two of the government allies.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) from the treasury benches and Balochistan National Party—Mengal (BNP-M) opposed the bill.

JUI-F lawmaker Maulana Attaur Rehman proposed an amendment in the bill seeking deletion of the words “religion and sect” from it that was rejected by the house with the majority vote.

Rehman said that the bill was aimed at targeting religion and Islam and added that Islam had no relation with terrorism.

He between the lines criticised the army for supporting jihadi organisations in the past.

Rehman said that religious parties were against any armed struggle.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid told the house that the reservations of the JUI-F on the bill had been addressed.

The preamble of the previous law says terrorist using the name of the “religion or sect” should be tried under the law.

Now word “use” has been replaced with “misuse”, he said.

Hamid said that four amendments had been made in the bill.

Under the new bill, anyone arrested or after the transfer of his case to the military courts would be produced before such court and handed over charge-sheet within 24 hours of arrest.

The accused would be provided an opportunity to engage a lawyer of his choice and otherwise, the government will arrange a counsel for the accused person—an amendment made on the insistence of the PPP.

Through another amendment, all cases in the military courts will be tried under the Qanoon-i-Shahdat (Law of Evidence).

Earlier, a number of lawmakers, of parties including the PTI, the MQM and the PPP who supported the bill, even condemned the revival of the military courts.

They said that the civilian government and the parliament was surrendering its space to the military thorough this.

They termed it a “black day” in the history of the country.

They said that the government instead of strengthening the existing legal and criminal system was bent on reviving the military courts.

No political party who believed in the supremacy of democracy could support these two laws, said BNP-M lawmaker Jehenzeb Jamaldini.

He however said that some religious parties had been supporting the terrorists.

PMAP Senator Usman Kakar said that the government had compromised on the supremacy of democracy and the parliament.

Barrister Saif of the MQM commented that the doctrine of necessity had come to life again.

Senator Mir Kabir said that supporting the bill was like swallowing a bitter pill.

PPP Senator Farahatullah Babar said that it looked that a sugar-coated bitter pill was being given to them through some amendments in the law.

“This is a day of embarrassment for me and for every member. We ourselves feel diminished,” Babar said.

He called the military courts a parallel judicial system.

Babar said that the 18th Amendment had empowered the leaders of 11 or 12 parliamentary parties to amend the constitution and that it was a dangerous trend.

He proposed for amending the constitution in this connection.

Under the 18th Amendment, any lawmaker cannot vote against the party policy on any constitutional amendment bill.

Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rababni said that that it was an unfortunate day in the history of the country, while PML-N lawmaker Lt-General (retd) Abdul Qayyum said that the necessity of the military courts was due to the gravity of the threat.