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PML-N, PTI leading charge for mly courts

Updated Mar 19, 2017 07:39am


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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) are leading the charge to ensure the passage of the 23rd amendment — seeking the revival of the military courts — which the government plans to present before both houses of parliament next week.

In background discussions, leaders of almost all major political parties revealed that so far only the PML-N and PTI had taken practical steps to ensuring the maximum presence of their members in the National Assembly and Senate when the government presents the bill for passage, as per the understanding reached between all parties last week.

Other parties, despite agreeing on the proposal to extend the term of the military courts for another two years, do not appear so enthusiastic about the exercise.

Both parties scrambling to ensure maximum attendance for passage of constitutional amendment; Rabbani may abstain in protest

After a series of exhaustive meetings, the government and the opposition on Thursday finally agreed to revive the military courts for a two-year period after the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which had been opposing the government draft, withdrew two of its main proposals, paving the way for an across-the-board consensus.

Now, the government is expected to table two bills — the 23rd Constitution Amendment and a fresh amendment to the Pakistan Army Act — in the National Assembly on Monday (tomorrow) and in the Senate on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already convened a meeting of the PML-N’s parliamentary committee on Monday in an effort to ensure the presence of maximum number of party members to ensure the smooth passage of the constitutional amendment bill, since a minimum of two-thirds of all members in both houses are required to vote on it.

Though the prime minister’s spokesperson announced that the meeting had been called “to discuss important national issues and party affairs”, sources in the PML-N said the main purpose of the exercise was to ensure the presence of members in the house. They said party lawmakers were being directed to attend the meeting, which would be chaired by the prime minister, who rarely graces the parliament with his presence.

Similarly, PTI parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Dawn that he had already “requested” all party legislators to ensure their presence in both houses of parliament to ensure the smooth passage of the constitutional amendment.

Mr Qureshi said he had sent SMS messages to all party legislators, requesting them to compulsorily attend the sittings as the party had reached a consensus on the issue of the military courts, considering it a “national issue”.

Sources in the PTI said the participation of chairman Imran Khan in the National Assembly session on the day was still “doubtful”.

On the other hand, a senior PPP office-bearer and senator said its leadership had not issued any directive to party legislators so far, adding that PPP members would be voting for the bill with “heavy hearts”.

Similarly, when contacted, a senior leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said that party legislators had so far not been asked to ensure their presence in parliament.

Senate chairman

Sources said that Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani might not preside over the sitting of the upper house when the bill would be presented for its passage, as a mark of protest.

During Senate proceedings on Friday, Mr Rabbani termed the accord reached between political parties on the revival of military courts “unfortunate” and feared that the extension might go beyond 2019.

Mr Rabbani observed that two bills pertaining to military courts had been passed in 2015, yet two years later, the country found itself back to square one.

Mr Rabbani is a strong opponent of military courts and was moved to tears after voting as a senator on the 21st Constitutional Amendment that set up military courts in the country in January 2015. At that time, he had stated that he had voted against his own conscience, adding that he had never felt more ashamed in his life.

“I have been in the Senate for more than 12 years, but have never been as ashamed as I am today and I cast my vote against my conscience,” he said at the time.

The government also fears that Mr Rabbani, who is known for taking unusual steps on key occasions, may skip the sitting on the fateful day. This was evident from the fact that soon after the chair’s observation on Friday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar hoped that Mr Rabbani would not be absent the day the house legislated on the revival of military courts.

Party position

In the 342-member National Assembly, the support of 228 legislators is required to get a constitutional amendment bill passed. In the Senate, where the government is in a minority, the endorsement of 70 senators is required in the 104-member house.

The ruling party may not have any difficulties getting the bill passed from the NA, but it will be a tough ask for it to have it passed from the Senate.

In the NA, the PML-N has 188 MNAs, followed by PPP’s 47 of the PPP, PTI’s 33 and MQM’s 24. All these parties combined have the required strength to ensure the bill’s passage.

But in the Senate, the maximum attendance of PPP, MQM, and other parties’ members is a must. The PML-N has 26 senators, whereas the PTI only has seven. Therefore, the support of the PPP’s 27 senators and the MQM’s eight lawmakers, besides other smaller groups, is seen as being vital for the government.

Sources said that some five senators were either out of the country or seriously ill, and their participation in next week’s proceedings seemed doubtful.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2017


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Comments (22) Closed

Javed Ali Mar 19, 2017 08:23am

Shame on Pmln and Pti. Both are eager to prove their allegiance to the military without any consideration for the civil judicial system.

Inam Mar 19, 2017 09:02am

PPP seems to be in give and take mood. There are lot in the PPP's plate to settle with the govt including Dr. Asim.

True pakiStani Mar 19, 2017 09:43am

Why only courts? Why not military parliament as well?

Irfan M Mar 19, 2017 10:17am

@True pakiStani , great idea.

patriot Mar 19, 2017 10:20am

@True pakiStani . well said,there is lot of thought in it. Politicians must work and evolve effective plans to strengthen first the political system.Independent and competent judiciary . Country FIRST and all establishments loyal and helpful to a NATIONAL cause.

khakanbabar Mar 19, 2017 10:24am

Terrorism is not only suicide bombers and other forms of killing. Corruption is also terrorism as it robs the generation and the country of their futur

Imran Ahmed Mar 19, 2017 10:40am

It is a huge failure of all the provincial and also the federal government that they yet have to devise a way to provide the basic human right of speedy, universal justice. They have not even begun the work of providing a safe environment for victims, whistle-blowers, witnesses, investigators, prosecutors or trial justice. Our courts must provide speedy and transparently universal justice according to due process. Military courts are not the answer because they are not professionally trained, they definitely do not apply the law universally to all, they are opaque but it does appear that their dependence on "confessions" is extraordinary.

Salar Mar 19, 2017 10:46am

This is extra judicial. It has served its purpose. Now STOP. Strengthen the institutions, fix them and go through the proper channels. I support pti, but not in this. This is pushing the problem of fixing up our institutions for later...

pashtoon Mar 19, 2017 10:50am

Don't trust PPP. They afraid for their leaders to be arrested for economic terrorism. They have no sympathy for the country

MHS Mar 19, 2017 10:59am

on issues like this and others which involve some constitutional and legal insight . The only party that stands out is PPP . Although I very much wish that Imran had that strength but unfortunately he is most vulnerable of all in this respect..

Shaukat Ali Khan Mar 19, 2017 11:32am

Nice to see both parties working for a good cause here.

Riaz Ullah Baig Mar 19, 2017 12:08pm

They must do legislation to improve the judicial system instead of looking for adhoc fixtures.

Riaz Ullah Baig Mar 19, 2017 12:09pm

@Javed Ali it is because of PPP and Co's unwillingness to improve the judicial system despite being in power for so many years.

Riaz Ullah Baig Mar 19, 2017 12:08pm

@MHS in response to your point of PTI lacking the strength, I say, it is the weakness of PPP, which is forcing PPP to strike a deal with N League (you must know the PPP's weakness as well). In fact, PPP should have tried to fix the loopholes in our judicial system but instead they did the opposite.

Sajjad kamran Mar 19, 2017 12:14pm

Strange bed-fellows, PML (N) and PTI

Then this is politics.

Unfortunate indeed.

fahd Mar 19, 2017 12:22pm

We need military courts now. Good work

ABDUL AZIZ EDHI Mar 19, 2017 12:42pm

Military Courts may also be given powers to try all types of corruption cases if our country really want to finish corruption. Higher position ers easily escapes from Civil Courts.

Mehmood Mar 19, 2017 12:46pm

I wish mr Rabbani , so called man of principle would have shown same attitude towards zardari corruption in his government and situation of Sind.... Double standards would not earn him any respect

Shahzeb Abbasi Mar 19, 2017 01:29pm

I find it really ironic that Raza Rabbani cries over this issue yet he doesn't feel ashamed when his partys incompetence leads to the death of children in Thar..

Alien Mar 19, 2017 02:04pm

@Inam what do you think why Sharjeel is back ....

Abu Fatima Mar 19, 2017 07:23pm

Only PPP, in principle, should oppose the amendment. Rest are, in one way or the other, obliged to vote for it.

a. Ali Mar 20, 2017 02:37am

both are doing SAME thing, however their intentions and vested interests are poles apart... n-league is doing it to please the bosses, PTI is doing with clinical professionalism, as was need of the hour...