Government to seek opposition’s support for extension of military courts’ term

In this file photo, a paramilitary soldier keeps guard outside the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Pakistan on Feb. 9, 2012. (Reuters)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Government to seek opposition’s support for extension of military courts’ term

  • Reasons that the body has fulfilled its responsibilities in war against terror
  • Needs two-thirds majority to make it into a law

KARACHI: Pakistan’s federal government has decided to solicit the support of all opposition parties in order to extend the term of military courts, officials said on Friday.
“We have decided to contact all opposition parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for building a consensus for the passage of a bill, which requires two-thirds majority to be passed,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who is also the government’s focal person on all issues pertaining to the matter, told Arab News on Friday.
Chaudhry argued that the military courts, which were established to cope with extraordinary situations, have fulfilled their responsibility. “These courts have played a vital role in eliminating terrorism,” he said.
“However, we need two-thirds majority for the passage of the bill. So if opposition parties support the bill, it can be adopted into law,” he added.
Opposition parties said that they were awaiting details of a draft amendment bill which the government intends to present in parliament to extend the term of Pakistan’s military courts.
“We are still waiting for the details of the bill from the government’s side and once we have a draft we will deliberate whether to support or oppose it,” former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told Arab News.
“The military courts have performed well and if its further need is justified, we may support the extension,” Abbasi said.
Military courts were established in January 2015 by introducing the 21st amendment to the constitution of Pakistan. Since then, they have sentenced more than 300 accused to death.
Their term was subsequently extended for two years with the 23rd constitutional amendment on January 7, 2017.
The bill had, however, received presidential assent on March 31, 2017, which gives the military courts a legal cover until March 31, 2019.
Senator Rehman Malik, former Interior Minister and central leader of the PPP, said: “The parliament will make deliberations over it and will accordingly vote in favor or otherwise.”
“When the law was passed, the country was passing through tough times,” Malik said, adding that the respective political parties will have their own deliberations to assess the present requirements for the country to further curb terrorism.
“Let us wait and see what convincing material is placed by the government before the parliament”.
Malik argues that terrorism hasn’t been completely eliminated yet. “The current incidents in Karachi, attacks on paramilitary and security forces, especially those in Balochistan, indicates that terrorism hasn’t be completely rooted out,” he said, adding that the parliament “will decide this matter in national interest keeping the past performance of the military courts.”
The party’s spokespersons, Maula Bux Chandio and Nafisa Shah, didn’t responded to queries by Arab News for further comments on the matter. However, senior leader Farhatullah Babar said that the party may not support the bill.
“At the last meeting of the central excusive committee of PPP in Naudero on December 26, 2018, the party adopted a unanimous resolution calling upon the parliament not to extend the tenure of military courts any further,” Babar told Arab News.
Moreover, the military courts, he said, were envisaged in the NAP as a short-term measure for two-years only.
“During this period the criminal justice system had to be reformed and anti-terror institutions strengthened,” he argued.
The government and the military, for their parts, reason that the courts have performed well.
“Since the establishment of the courts, 717 cases of accused terrorists were sent to military courts by the government. Of these 717 cases, 546 have been finalized by the military courts,” an ISPR statement shared with Arab News read, adding that out of the 546 finalized cases, 310 terrorists were sentenced to death, while 234 were awarded rigorous imprisonment of varied termd ranging from life imprisonment to a minimum duration of five years.
“Two accused were also acquitted,” the statement said.
Additionally, out of the 310 who were sentenced to death, 56 terrorists have been executed after the completion of legal processes, which included their appeal in superior civil courts and rejection of their mercy petitions both by the army’s top commander and by the president of Pakistan.
Implementation of the death sentences for the remaining 254 terrorists is pending completion of legal process in higher courts.


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government promises action against polio vaccination spoilers

Updated 20 min 32 sec ago
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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government promises action against polio vaccination spoilers

  • Traders in Bannu, one of province’s worst-hit districts, had earlier refused to administer drops to protest new taxes, call off boycott
  • Provincial Information Minister says government will ensure polio teams reach every child no matter the obstacles

PESHAWAR: The government of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province warned on Tuesday it would take strict action against anyone misusing the anti-polio drive just days after traders in Bannu, a district worst hit by the virus, refused to allow the administering of polio drops to protest new taxes.
Pakistan’s polio eradication campaign has hit serious snags in recent months, with an alarming spike in reported cases that has raised doubts over the quality of vaccination reporting and prompted officials to review their approach to stopping the crippling disease.
The country is one of only three in the world where polio is endemic, along with neighboring Afghanistan and Nigeria, but vaccination campaigns have cut the disease sharply, with only a dozen cases last year compared with 306 in 2014 and more than 350,000 in 1988, according to Pakistani health officials.
However, there has been a worrying jump this year, with 53 new cases recorded, 32 of them in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“Senseless people who are misusing the anti-polio drive for their personal interests, the government will take action against them and we will not spare them,” Provincial Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai told Arab News. “Polio is no less a threat than terrorism. We will make our province and our country polio-free the way we won the war against terrorism.”
“Despite being a nuclear power, do you want Pakistan to stand with Nigeria and Afghanistan [as countries where polio persists]?” Yousafzai asked. “Never ever. We will ensure polio teams reach every child.”
A new round of vaccinations is scheduled to be launched from August 26 to September 1 in 24 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Bannu, said Kamran Afridi, the coordinator of the Emergency Operation Center for polio eradication. Around 30 polio cases out of 32 reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa this year have emerged in Bannu.
Afridi said following the recent announcement of protests by traders in Bannu traders, all District Coordination Officers had been directed to engage the community and launch awareness campaigns. 
On August 18, traders in Bannu, a district to the volatile North Waziristan tribal district, threatened to boycott anti-polio drives to build pressure on the government to reverse “heavy taxes’” levied on small businesses. Although the boycott has since been called off, it highlights the complexity of Pakistan’s anti-polio campaign. 
“We have called off our polio boycott but we had to announce the boycott just to get the government’s attention to reverse unprecedented increase in taxes,” Shah Wazir, president of the Bannu Chamber of Commerce, said.