ISLAMABAD: The main opposition, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Friday strongly opposed the government’s decision of handing over the federal capital to the army under Article 245 of the Constitution to handle the law and order situation.
The reaction came hours after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the media that his ministry under Article 245 of the Constitution has sought the Army's services for maintaining law and order in Islamabad for a period of three months.
“The decision is pregnant with serious consequences for the people and the country as it means not only failure of the civil administration but also total suspension of the jurisdiction of the high courts. Worst still, in practical terms it also means setting up of military courts which cannot be permitted,” PPP spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said in a statement.
He said the PPP has always opposed invoking Article 245 for calling Army in aid of civil power whether it was in Karachi or other parts of the country.
“The situation in Islamabad is not any worse than that in any other part of the country to warrant inviting security establishment to fix it by vesting in them powers beyond judicial oversight,” he said.
The PPP spokesman said, “The government fails to recognise that if today it is Islamabad tomorrow Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore, indeed the whole country, may have to be handed over to the army under Article 245 and practically dispense with the high courts.”
“Bad as it already is the human rights situation in the country will get even worse if the doors of high courts are shut on the citizens,” he added.
He said that the decision to hand over the federal capital to the Army will also send disturbing signals to the world about the prevailing security situation in Pakistan.
“The decision reflects the penchant of PML-N government to lean on the security establishment for everything, be it meter reading or tracing of ghost schools or appointing monitors and is most unfortunate.”
“And let us not forget the security apparatus once called in aid of civil power under this Article might want to linger on even after it is no longer needed. No one wants to relinquish power or abdicate a position of authority and influence in which their actions are not called into question in the courts.”
Farhatullah Babar said it will further distort the already distorted civil-military equation. He reminded the PML-N government of the Charter of Democracy (CoD).
“Four articles of the CoD (articles 32 to 36) call for concerted actions to address distortions in civil-military relations. The decision to hand over Islamabad to the army will, instead of correcting the existing huge imbalance, further tilt the balance against the civilian, political and judicial structures of the country,” he said.
The government will do well to take a leaf from the past before venturing into this adventurism, he said.
Earlier, sources had said that the government was mulling over invoking Article 245 of the Constitution to summon the Army in all major cities of the country.
Sources had added that the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb military operation in North Waziristan was also being carried out under the same constitutional article.
Given below are details of Article 245 of the Constitution which pertains to the functions Pakistan's Armed forces, taken from the National Assembly website:
(1) The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so.
(2) The validity of any direction issued by the Federal Government under clause (1) shall not be called in question in any court.
(3) A High Court shall not exercise any jurisdiction under Article 199 in relation to any area in which the Armed Forces of Pakistan are, for the time being, acting in aid of civil power in pursuance of Article 245: Provided that this clause shall not be deemed to affect the jurisdiction of the High Court in respect of any proceeding pending immediately before the day on which the Armed Forces start acting in aid of civil power.
(4) Any proceeding in relation to an area referred to in clause (3) instituted on or after the day the Armed Forces start acting in aid of civil power and pending in any High Court shall remain suspended for the period during which the Armed Forces are so acting.