- Political and military leaderships of country agree on setting up special trial courts manned by military officers for a time-span of two years to decide terrorism-related cases
- Prime Minister Sharif says time has run out for terrorists, extremists in Pakistan
Backed by a historical consensus of the national political leadership and the Pakistani military against the menace of terrorism, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had vengeance in his eyes as he blew the war bugle against terrorism during an address to the nation late Wednesday.
“Your days have been numbered. You will find no refuge and we will hunt you down,” the premier threatened the terrorists, resolving to avenge every drop of blood spilled of innocent citizens and security personnel.
PM Sharif said that the massacre of innocent children at Army Public School in Peshawar had left a dent on the country’s future. “As a father I can understand the pain of lifting those little coffins. I assure you that I am with you in these troubled times and will lead the fight against terrorism till its logical conclusion come what may.”
The prime minister’s address came after a momentous All Parties Conference (APC) which was summoned by Sharif to evolve a joint strategy to root out terrorism.
During the APC which lasted for about 10 hours, the political and military leaderships of the country agreed on setting up special trial courts manned by senior military officers for a period of two years to decide terrorism-related cases expeditiously.
The idea of installing military courts could not be agreed upon due to the opposition by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). However, following hectic debate over legal and constitutional provisions, the national leadership agreed on changing the name of the courts.
Another disagreement was observed over the recommendation for bringing in madrassa reforms. However, this issue too was resolved after leaders of JI and JUI-F were assured by the prime minister that the Anti-Terrorism National Action Plan Committee (ATNAP) members would meet the Wafaqul Madaris leaders and their concerns would be resolved amicably.
Initially, the government tried to get endorsement of the political leadership on the experts working group’s recommendation for setting up military courts but despite Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s support to the proposal, leaders of PPP, JI, MQM and ANP opposed the idea.
A source, who attended the meeting, told Pakistan Today that the PPP, JI and ANP looked in no mood to take responsibility for the installation of military courts and when the prime minister insisted, both the parties agreed to it, only after renaming it as ‘special trial courts’.
The source added that MQM was only party which feared that the military courts may take action against its workers due to the strained relations between the two in the past.
However, PM Sharif assured the political leadership that the tribunals would only be mandated to take action against terrorists and they would not be allowed to try any political worker. He also directed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to contact the MQM chief Altaf Hussain and assure him that the tribunals would only take up terrorism-related cases and no political worker would be tried by these tribunals unless he’s found involved in terrorist activities.
Finally, after a hectic debate, the participants of the extraordinary session agreed to setting up speedy trial tribunals manned by military officers as the PPP, JI, ANP and MQM agreed to the new proposal of special speedy tribunals manned by military officers.
It was also agreed to issue a joint declaration as the premier insisted to send a strong message of unity to the terrorists, their facilitators and abettors.
A committee of top constitutional experts was also formed for removing some legal hitches for setting up the speedy trials. The committee comprises Hamid Khan Advocate, Afrasiab Khattak, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Aitzaz Ahsan and Dr Farogh Nasim.
‘YES TO MILITARY COURTS’:
Earlier, the prime minister got a surprise support from the major opposition party PTI’s chief Imran Khan who said that his party would support the idea if the courts are installed for a specified term.
Some other political parties including PML-Q, National Party, PML-Zia, and Qaumi Watan Party also extended support to the idea of military courts.
During the meeting, PML-Q Secretary-General Mushahid Hussain Sayed told the premier that his party would stand behind him. “Mr Prime Minister, establish military courts. It is time to act. The US (government) also established these courts,” the source quoted Hussain as saying.
QWP chief Aftab Sherpao also supported formation of the military courts. “These are extraordinary circumstances. We need extraordinary measures to tackle the menace of terrorism,” said Sherpao,
National Party chief Hasil Bizenjo also said that the military courts should be established. “We have to fight the terrorist mindset. Stopping now will be a failure forever. If we fail, next rulers would be Taliban,” he remarked.
Ijazul Haq, Ghazi Gulab Jamal and Abbas Khan Afridi also endorsed the idea of military courts.
PML-F Vice President Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah said that madrassa reforms and de-weaponisation was the need of the hour.
JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman said there was no other option left except for the use of force against terrorists. “I assure you, prime minister, that whatever decision political leadership would take, JUI would stand beside it. We will support military courts if supported by legal and constitutional experts of all parties,” maintained the JUI chief.
‘WE WILL READ THE DRAFT FIRST’:
PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan said that his party would support special tribunals manned by military officers. “We are for speedy punishments of the terrorists and if draft legislation for military courts is shared with us, we can work out a way within the Constitution and law. We will give our official stance after reading the legal document for establishing military courts,” Aitzaz told the APC meeting.
Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of ANP said that his party would give its official response after reading the draft legislation. “We need a few days to consult over the military courts. We want to see the legislation first,” he added.
Addressing the APC, the prime minister termed the agreement a historic and defining moment for Pakistan.
“We will eliminate terrorism from our country. We have backing of the nation. Our resolve is a strong message for those who wanted to destroy Pakistan. We have to act fast and whatever is agreed upon, we need to implement it immediately,” he said, adding that the collective wisdom and tough decisions to eliminate terrorists from the homeland will be a tribute to the martyrs who gave their lives in the war against terrorism.
“We can’t go out of this meeting without consensus and we will not leave without final consensus. We can’t let down our martyrs. We will take this war to its logical end,” said the prime minister, adding that the political leadership would have to take ‘tough decisions’ to root out the scourge of terrorism, failing which “the nation and historians would never forgive us if we took frail decisions”.
“The entire nation has galvanised after APS attack and the masses are looking to the political leadership for a decisive action against the terrorists now. We have a shared responsibility to take tough decisions against the terrorists who want to disintegrate Pakistan. No religion allows massacre of children,” the premier said.
“We can’t wait for a repeat of APS-like act of terrorist. We need to strike on terrorists with full force. But if you think any tough decision would have ramifications and implications, please discuss here with us and we would address your concerns,” he added.