Govt, opposition discussing military courts’ extension

Updated March 14, 2019

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Foreign minister is in contact with head of parliamentary parties on the issue, says Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. — DawnNewsTV/File
Foreign minister is in contact with head of parliamentary parties on the issue, says Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: The government is discussing with the opposition issues pertaining to grant of extension to military courts and implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) with special reference to the measures being taken against banned groups.

“Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is in contact with the heads of parliamentary parties, including from the opposition, on the issue of military courts and NAP,” said federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry at a press conference he addressed along with Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Media Iftikhar Durrani on Wednesday.

The relations between the government and the opposition, which improved during the recent standoff with India, have again turned sour following a couple of critical speeches made in the National Assembly.

The military courts were authorised to try civilians accused of carrying out terrorist activities in January 2015, soon after an attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in which 144 people, mostly children, were killed.

Adviser says PM stays away from parliament due to opposition’s non-serious attitude

The courts were given a two-year constitutional cover as both houses of parliament passed the 21st constitution amendment bill that had a sunset clause. As a result, they remained functional until January 2017.

In March of that year they were given an extension of two years by parliament. Therefore, they will again become dysfunctional this month after expiry of their term.

However, if the government wants to grant a second extension to the courts it would have to get a constitutional amendment bill approved by both houses of parliament and for that purpose it would require the support of opposition parties.

Answering a question about the measures being taken against the banned organisations, including the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the minister said that under the first phase of the drive such groups would be disarmed and later they would be brought into the national mainstream.

PPP chairman

Referring to the claims by Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was being used to browbeat the opposition and that his party was ready to launch a campaign to “fill the jails”, Mr Chaudhry said the government was not afraid of such threats.

On a sarcastic note, he said: “Bilawal should start the movement from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as in Sindh PPP leaders and workers will automatically go to jail under NAB cases.”

When asked why Prime Minister Imran Khan did not attend sessions of the National Assembly to answer the queries of the opposition, Mr Durrani said the opposition did not have a “productive agenda” but was only interested in criticising the ruling coalition.

“The prime minister briefed the lower house of parliament on the Pakistan-India standoff, but he cannot respond to the opposition’s non-serious questions,” he added.

The information minister denied social media reports that an Israeli pilot was flying an Indian aircraft that was brought down by Pakistani jets and now he was in the custody of Pakistani military personnel.

Referring to a crisis in the state-run Pakistan Television, Mr Chaudhry said a new managing director of PTV would be appointed in about two weeks.

The minister said that under a new visa regime the government would grant e-visa facility to 170 countries and a pilot project would be launched on Thursday (today) in this regard.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2019