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Stalemate ends as PPP, govt agree on extension of military courts

Updated March 16, 2017

An impasse between the government and the PPP on the future of military courts ended on Thursday after the opposition party agreed to a conditional extension of military courts for two years and voluntarily withdrew five of the nine recommendations it had initially demanded to be included in the draft bill.

Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, who was heading a four-member PPP team, said four of the nine recommendations proposed by the opposition party will be incorporated in the draft bill to revive military courts.

Read more: Zardari announces PPP's 9 recommendations for military court extension

Ahsan said that one of the conditions PPP withdrew was its demand that military courts should be presided over by a sessions judge or a military officer.

"Pakistan is in a state of war. The enemy is attacking from everywhere," the senator said.

The following recommendations PPP had made will reportedly be incorporated in the final draft:

  • Accused to be produced within 24 hours before the concerned court.

  • Accused to be supplied with grounds of arrest within 24 hours.

  • Accused shall have right to engage A counsel of his choice.

  • Provisions of the Qanoon-i-Shahadat 1984 (Law of Evidence) shall apply.

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, who presided over the session, said a national security committee comprising National Assembly and Senate leaders will be formed to oversee military courts as well as other matters related to curbing terrorism in the country.

Sadiq said that the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and the Jamaat-i-Islami had reservations regarding the legal language of the bill, specifically with the phrase "terrorism in the name of religion".

Their reservations will be addressed in the final draft, he added.

Sadiq said the amendments to the legislation will be tabled in the National Assembly tomorrow (Friday).

"[The bill] will then be approved, hopefully with consensus, on Monday in the National Assembly, after which it will be brought before the Senate on Tuesday," he added.

Military courts had been disbanded on Jan 7 this year after a sunset clause included in the legal provisions under which the tribunals were established, expired.

The government and the opposition had struggled to reach a consensus on reviving the courts despite frequent discussions.

The primary concern of critics was the mystery surrounding military court trials: no one knows who the convicts are, what charges have been brought against them, or what the accused's defence is against the allegations levelled.

Proponents say the courts act as an "effective deterrent" for those considering violent acts.