The federal government has announced that it would start a consultative process leading to a constitutional amendment for the continuation of military courts in the country.
During a high-level government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday, days after the special military courts set up to try terrorism suspects ceased to function upon expiration of its mandated period, it was announced that the possible amendment would be drafted after taking all political parties on board.
In the duration of their existence, the military courts heard 274 cases, awarded 161 death sentences while 12 executions were carried out since January 2015, when the courts were established through a constitutional amendment allowing them to try civilians on terrorism charges.
In a press release on Sunday, the ISPR announced that the courts had ceased to function upon expiry of its mandated period, emphasizing that the swift disposal of cases through the military courts had yielded “positive effects towards reduction in terrorist’s activities” in an environment of heightened terrorism.
Prior to the completion of the sunset clause on the military courts in the Protection of Pakistan Act (POPA, 2014) there were reports that the interior ministry had prepared a draft, combining this legislation with the Anti Terror Act of 1997. Those reports did not amount to anything as the government let the tenure of the military courts lapse without a comment.
In the high-level meeting on Monday, the federal government acknowledged that the courts “played an extremely important role at a very crucial juncture of one action against extremism and terrorism”.
It said the special courts “translated the actions under operation Zarb-e-Azab to meaningful and tangible national gains”.
“The Federal Government has already initiated consultations for constitutional amendment to continue the Military Courts for a period which is agreed by all political parties represented in the Parliament,” it said.
The meeting, held at the PM House, also reviewed the internal and regional security situation in detail with a view to further strengthen the gains made through counter-terrorism operations, said the press release.
“The participants reiterated Pakistan’s clear-cut policy of zero tolerance against terrorism and extremism to accomplish internal peace as well as supplement its foreign policy initiatives. The meeting resolved for continued efforts at all levels to achieve national policy objectives.
“The participants agreed that Pakistan would continue its efforts for attaining internal peace and play its due role for a peaceful region,” it said.
The meeting was also attended by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar, DG ISI, Advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant to PM Tariq Fatemi, National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. (R) Nasser Khan Janjua, Secretary to Prime Minister and other senior officials.
The special courts were set up in January 2015 in response to an attack by Taliban terrorists on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 134 children.
According to the ISPR, “[The] Military Courts were established through [a] constitutional amendment in the environment of heightened terrorism. Routine judicial system was under stress wherein judicial set-ups/judges were also subjected to act of terrorism. Therefore, special constitutional arrangements were made to effectively check the terrorists /terrorism.
“The cases were dealt through due process of law in Military Courts. The disposal through military courts has yielded positive effects towards reduction in terrorist activities. The military courts have ceased to function on expiry of mandated period,” it said.
All cases being tried in the military courts have now been handed over to the anti-terrorism courts since the expiry of their term on Jan 7.