With the advent of the Sahiwal mishap and the mini-budget, an important issue has escaped national attention- that concerning the extension of the military courts, under the sunset clause of the 21st amendment to the constitution. Considering that the establishment of military courts affects both the legal, executive and national security spheres, the parliament needs to deliberate and debate thoroughly on whether an extension is warranted.

Currently, the parliament, as with every other issue, stands divided on this particular legislation. Where before Pakistan People’s Party had stated its opposition to any extension of the military courts, it has now softened its stance and has united with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on the issue. The joint opposition now maintains that Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan will have to talk directly to the leadership of the two main opposition parties for extending the tenure of military courts. The opposition contends that the issue of military courts should not just be limited to parliamentary committees but demands dialogue between the top political leadership as well.

It looks like we may be headed towards a parliamentary standstill on yet another issue, since the PTI government’s spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry has said that the PM has no need to talk directly with the leaderships of the parties in opposition. He explained that there was laid-down procedure in the Constitution, which was why a parliamentary committee headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak had been formed. Between direct dialogues and parliamentary committees- therein lies the conflict.

The military courts extension is a complex issue- yet it appears that all parties are more or less willing to allow the extension. It is difficult to see how the PM meeting opposition leaders would lead to better dialogue on military courts- this demand appears to be more politically loaded than ideological. However, the government needs to proceed wisely around this issue- it would not do to create further parliamentary inactivity on yet another issue.