After all its theatrics PPP surrenders on military courts

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The PPP after a lot of resistance has finally agreed to support the reinstatement of the military courts for two years. The Military courts had been an issue of conflict between the government and the opposition parties since these courts had ceased to have constitutional authority at the beginning of this year, on 7th January, and needed to be renewed.

The military courts were set up, under the 21st Amendment in January 2015 and were to last for two years, right after the Army Public School (APS) attack in December 2014, in Peshawar.

However, on 28 February, PTI and other opposition parties met with the government and had agreed to support its proposal on military courts. The meeting had been boycotted by the PPP, who had asked for an all-party conference to discuss the issue again.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said, “Despite our differences with PML-N, we have agreed on the extension of military courts in greater national interest.”

The military courts were set up, under the 21st Amendment in January 2015 and were to last for two years. They were set up right after the Army Public School (APS) attack in December 2014, in Peshawar. During the all-party conference, on 4th March, that was not attended by the PTI or PML-N, PPP had indicated that they may agree to a one-year extension of military courts.

The former President and PPP co-chairman, Asif Ali Zardari, condemned the PML-N government by saying, “I think there are weaknesses [in NAP] because the government is not serious and they have not provided them the funds.”

Read more: Terrorists roam free as politicians cannot decide on military courts

PPP’s nine point recommendations

The PPP put forward nine recommendations that they wanted the government to agree to:

  • Military courts would only remain for a period of one year from starting date.
  • Military courts shall be presided over by one sessions judge or an additional sessions judge along with a military officer.
  • The sessions/additional sessions judge will be nominated by the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
  • There would be a right of judicial review by the high courts, which is provided for under Article 199 of the Constitution.
  • The high court has to decide the case within 60 days.
  • Accused would be produced within 24 hours in front of the concerned court.
  • Accused to be supplied with grounds of arrest within 24 hours.
  • Accused shall have right to engage counsel of his choice.
  • Provisions of the Qanoon-i-Shahadat (Law of Evidence) 1984 shall apply.

The PPP was only able to get agreement on two of its recommendations before the session ended. The points agreed to include the recommendation that the provisions of the Qanoon-i-Shahadat, 1984 apply to military courts and that the accused be granted the right to appeal.

Read more: Is the Pakistani Army working overtime to make democracy sustainable?

It seems now that accord on the military courts has almost been achieved over a further two-year extension. However, during this period the government needs to undertake a judicial review and improve the existing legal and practical lacunae’s.

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