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Military Courts in Pakistan
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Pakistan’s senate approved the 28th Amendment in the constitution of the country for extension of the Military Courts. The Pashtun nationalist Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party voted against the bill while the religious party Jamiat Ulama Islam (Fazal Rehman) showed their absence from the session of the senate.
The proceeding kicked off by Mr. Raza Rabbani, the veteran lawmaker and Pakistan’s senate chairman. The majority of the senate members voted in for approval of the bill to extend military courts. Both the opposition and government leading parties approved the bill.
The military courts were the first practice under the elected government of Pakistan when the Army Public School was attacked in 2014 and 132 school children and staff members killed and the attack was claimed by Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan led by Mulah Fazlullah.
The military courts in its span of earlier two years went through the cases of 274 individuals out of them the army has sentenced 161 for the capital punishment states the Human Rights Watch report. Before the military courts implementation there was a moratorium on capital punishment in the country. After completing its two years, the military courts concluded later in the start of 2017 and the government again brought the bill to the parliament and senate floor for debates.
According to the government leading political party the “military courts” is a speedy way to deal the terrorism linked cases that are faced by delays in the judicial courts.
The political parties are playing with the authorities of the judicial system of Pakistan, it’s very sad that they have compromised the independence of judiciary and bringing in “military courts” is a compromise on the rights of the people. “If the military courts run by military officials were a solution to ending terrorism then the General Pervez Musharaf regime would not have promoted terrorism, the end of terrorism is possible through independent policy making, free parliament, judiciary, media and army working into the constitution provided spheres”, told Senator Usman Khan Kakar. “The military establishment had earlier hijacked the foreign policy of the country, now military courts means the political parties have handed them over the judicial power, is nonsense”, says Kakar.
While the reporter contacted the Awami National Party and Pakistan Peoples Party officials they refrained from the comments on the decision by their leadership in the favor of military courts.
The practicing lawyer from Peshawar Haider Khan Momand told the military courts is another attack on the independent institution of judiciary after government and hijack of foreign and interior politics of the country the “Khakis” are out to control the judicial system. “They at the same time shows that the country’s judicial system is incapable to deal cases related to terrorism though we have Anti Terrorism Courts”, says Momand.
Everyone is innocent until he/she is proved guilty in “charges” then how one can presume that military courts where judge is from military, lawyer from military and process is a military style can provide justice to the civilians, asked Momand. “The military courts exist but they are only dealing the culprits within their own institutions, these courts should not be for the provision of so called justice to the civilian”, says Momand.
Some experts are of the view that owing to the slow procedure of the Pakistani judicial system, the army courts were necessary. This is why majority of the political parties support the bill. A Peshawar based lawyer Hidayat Afridi is of the view that the military courts are speedy justice system for the culprits involved in terror attacks so they should be dealt that way, as “our judicial system is having flaws to protect the judges, lawyers in high profile terror cases”.
One of the Human Rights activist Sanna Ejaz is of the belief that the military court is in contrary to the Universal Charter of Human Rights “therefore it is the very wrong idea to deal the cases through such proceedings, everyone who is allegedly convict should at least have the appeal and arguments right before the court, which, is not available in the speedy decision making process through military courts”.
“Reinstating military courts would violate Pakistan’s international human rights obligations. Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Pakistan ratified in 2010, guarantees everyone the right to timely trial by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal”, cites the Human Rights Watch statement.
In August 2016 the lawyers demonstration in Quetta was attacked that killed more than 70 lawyers from Balochistan was later claimed by the Islamic State and the death of the lawyers target killing and bomb attack in Mardan and Shabaqdr courts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also came under the attack of religious militant groups who are opposing the Pakistani judicial system and always vow to rule the country under their version of “Sharia Law”.
Malik Achakzai