Home South Asia Pakistan Fate of Military Courts: PPP takes a firm stand?

Fate of Military Courts: PPP takes a firm stand?

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News Desk |

The Pakistan People’s Party has reaffirmed its uncompromising attitude towards granting a second extension for the tenure of military courts, which were established in 2015, in the wake of the APS carnage.

PPP’s senior office bearers were invited for a meeting at the Bilawal House on Friday, Jan 19, after which the party’s central leadership held a press conference to brief the media over their official stance. Senior PPP leader, Farhatullah Babar, announced an outright refusal, “NO to the military courts”.

The courts remained broken up from January to March 2017, only to be extended for another period of two years in the midst of a controversial constitutional environment.

Earlier in December, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the Chairperson of PPP, had declared his party’s undisputed decision of opposing another extension of the military courts, and now that the two-year term is coming to an end in March, the debate has stirred up once again.

Farhatullah Babar went on to state that there was simply “no justification for military courts” because terrorism episodes had undergone a marked reduction in Pakistan. Furthermore, he added that even if terrorism was still a challenge, the extension was pointless because, he said, “the military courts cannot do in 40 years [what] they haven’t been able to do in four years”.

Read more: Pakistan: Will military courts get an extension?

Babar, vocal about the military courts, believed that they create ambiguities in the legal process and alleged that military courts seem working only to protect certain “vested interests” with the shield of the legislature. He was quick to point out the examples of the Hudood Ordinances and other controversial laws funneled in by General Zia Ul Haq.

He went on to point out the hazards of mixing the military with judicial processes, and therefore, declared that the PPP is against military tribunals.

The military courts were given permission to hold trials for civilians charged with terrorism back in January 2015, following the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. The courts were protected with a constitutional allowance of two years after both parliamentary houses passed the 21st constitutional amendment with the addition of the sunset clause. Lawmakers were perplexed that the military courts would undermine their authority and the integrity of the democratic process.

The DG ISPR also mentioned that cases were transferred to military courts through a transparent system and out of 717 cases, 646 were logically concluded within four years.

The courts remained broken up from January to March 2017, only to be extended for another period of two years in the midst of a controversial constitutional environment. Nevertheless, the courts were resumed, and now, March 2019 is another turning point for the future of these military-run courts.

Analysts believe that the Military courts are speedy, but the principal advantage of military court lies in the security these provide to the judicial process. Earlier, Judges, magistrates, police personnel, judicial officers and witnesses were continuously under threat of attacks by the Islamist militants across Punjab and by MQM’s militant gangs in Karachi.

It was thus very difficult for regular courts to function independently. For military courts, judges come from the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch and courts are established on undisclosed locations where no one including media is given access; hence, the officers as well as witnesses can’t be threatened. No media publicity and protection of officers and witnesses are the main advantages of the MCs.

Read more: COAS’ concerns addressed: 29 cases sent to military courts

However, where PML-N’s stance seems to be in the favor of the extension of military courts as it was PML-N’s government that had introduced the military courts at the first place, PPP has not only strongly criticized the military courts but Bilawal Bhutto said he and his party would oppose the extension at every forum.

DG ISPR Responds

While the opposing parties are busy arguing about eliminating the need of justice dispensation by the military, Major General Asif Ghafoor, director general (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), has spoken on the matter on Friday night.

He is reported to have said, “The decision on military courts’ extension rests with parliament, we will do what parliament tells us”. He stressed upon the fact that the extensions granted to the military courts in the past were also agreed upon with consensus and approval of the government and its representatives.

The law ministry announced that the details of the second extension of military courts were sent to the Cabinet for further contemplation earlier this month.

Pointing out the significance of military courts as they created fear among terrorists, DG ISPR said, “Military courts have sent a clear message to terror outfits, militants, and their handlers that they can be punished.”

The DG ISPR also mentioned that cases were transferred to military courts through a transparent system and out of 717 cases, 646 were logically concluded within four years.

However, he said that the fate of the military courts is in the hands of the lawmakers, and he urged them to make a decision that takes into account the current security situation and the impact of the military courts.

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

Politics of PPP on Military Courts?

The law ministry announced that the details of the second extension of military courts were sent to the Cabinet for further contemplation earlier this month. PM, Imran Khan had appointed a two member committee consisting of Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Defense Minister, Perviaz Khattak to approach the opposition to create consensus on the issue. However all political analysts suspected that given PPP’s troubles with the JIT investigations into fake accounts of Omni and Zardari Groups, party will use the extension of military courts for seeking concessions from the government and the establishment. Supreme Court has already forwarded the JIT report to NAB for further investigations and for reporting back to Supreme Court if references can be filed against the accused. Accused also include PPP Co-chairperson, Asif Ali Zardari and his sister, Faryal Talpur.

Mina Jehangir with additional inputs by News Desk.


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