Senate resolution on military trials ‘does not reflect majority’s sentiments’, says Raza Rabbani

Published November 20, 2023
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani speaks in the Senate on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani speaks in the Senate on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

PPP Senator Raza Rabbani on Monday said that a recent resolution passed by the upper house of Parliament, which urged the Supreme Court to “reconsider” its verdict on the military trials of civilians, “did not reflect the sentiments of the majority”.

The resolution was passed on November 13 in the presence of less than a dozen senators. It had urged the top court to “reconsider” its verdict of declaring “unconstitutional” the military trial of civilians for their alleged role in attacks on army installations on May 9.

The resolution was not part of the agenda issued before the session and was tabled when a majority of members were absent. It was read out by independent Senator Dilawar Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and supported only by the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) senators.

Only two senators — Rabbani and Mushtaq Ahmed of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) — had protested against the hasty passage of the resolution, but Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had ignored their protests.

The two-page resolution had termed the SC verdict “an attempt to rewrite the law” and an encroachment of the parliament’s legislative authority.

The day after the passage of the resolution, mem­bers belonging to the country’s mainstream political parties had lodged a strong protest in the Senate against its hasty passage and called for its immediate withdrawal. The upper house of Parliament also witnessed ruckus in its session on Nov 17 as senators again protested the passage of the resolution.

During today’s Senate session, Rabbani stated that the resolution was presented towards the end of the session, was also not listed on the day’s agenda and was presented when the House was lacking quorum.

Rabbani said that in his opinion, the SC verdict regarding military courts was in accordance with the Constitution. He said that there were legal avenues that could be pursued against the SC judgement.

“But bulldozing something in Parliament in this way, which does not have a majority, is not appropriate ,” he said. “Parliament was disrespected and made to be appear redundant,” he said.

“The resolution passed is condemned as it does not reflect the sentiments of the majority of this House,” the PPP senator said.

Rabbani also expressed support for a resolution by Senator Ahmed against the military trials of civilians. “I would like to request him, through you (Senate chairman), that he takes permission today and moves the resolution,” he said.

At this, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani said the matter was now subjudice and tried to move the session along.

Meanwhile, Senator Ahmed said that when the resolution in question was presented, him and Rabbani had openly opposed. He said that they asked for a chance to speak on the resolution but were denied.

He said that the resolution, tabled in the absence of the leader of the House and the leader of the opposition, was not shown to a single senator. “I think that resolution is a drone attack on this House […] it is an attack on democracy […] and will empower non-democratic forces,” he said.

“I condemn this, I reject this,” he said, adding that he had submitted a resolution the same day. He said that the SC verdict was “historic” and was in accordance with the Constitution.

He called on the House to reject the resolution that was passed.

PTI’s Hamid Khan criticises govt for appealing SC verdict

Meanwhile, senior jurist Hamid Khan lambasted the federal and Balochistan caretaker governments for filing an appeal against the Supreme Court’s decision against the trials of civilian in military courts.

“This is not the mandate of caretaker governments,” he said while speaking to media representatives at the Lahore High Court Bar Association.

“These are unconstitutional governments whose terms are over and they cannot interfere in constitutional matters,” he said, adding that the apex court’s decision was apt and all the lawyers were also in its favour.

Senate resolution

The motion, passed last Monday, was read out by independent Senator Dilawar Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and supported only by the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) senators.

It urged the apex court to reconsider its decision in line with the “national security paradigm and sacrifices of the martyrs”.

“Prima facie, an attempt has been made to rewrite the law by impinging upon the legislative authority of the Parliament,” reads the resolution, a copy of which is available with Dawn.

Other than Khan, the motion carried the signatures of senators Kahuda Babar, Ahmed Khan, Prince Ahmed Omer Ahmedzai, Naseebullah Bazai and Manzoor Kakar.

The resolution said the military trial of those accused of violence against the army was “an appropriate and proportional response in line with Pakistan’s existing constitutional framework”.

“Within the country’s constitutional framework, the trial of individuals accused of anti-state vandalism and violence under the Army Act serves as a deterrent against such acts.”

They also endorsed the concerns expressed by the martyrs’ family members that the absence of military courts would “encourage or embolden those responsible for acts of terrorism” since regular courts can’t hand out strict punishments.

This was a reference to a press conference held by Shuhada Forum last week where they called for the “restoration of military courts”. The forum included the family members of the victims who lost their lives in terrorist attacks.

Additional reporting by Rana Bilal

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