Pakistan parties agree to extend military courts

Weeks-long deadlock over 2-year extension period resolved after main opposition party withdraws objections

Pakistan parties agree to extend military courts

World Bulletin / News Desk

 Pakistan’s government and opposition parties agreed Thursday to reinstate controversial military courts for another two-year term.

The issue of military courts, which were established in 2015 for a two-year period and abolished in January after completing their term, has been a bone of contention between the government and the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

The PPP, apparently angry with alleged persecution of its leaders on terrorism charges, had tabled nine demands for supporting the extension.

Among the demands were that an extension would only last a year, and a parliamentary committee would be formed to oversee the functioning of military courts.

The weeks-long deadlock was resolved after the PPP withdrew its major demand, and agreed to the two-year extension on Thursday.

The government, in what is seen as “give and take”, agreed to form a parliamentary committee as demanded.

“Both sides have agreed on a two-year extension for the military courts,” National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq told a press conference in Islamabad.

Appearing alongside Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and the opposition leader in the Senate, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Sadiq said a bill would soon be submitted to parliament to provide constitutional cover to the extension.

Pakistan established military courts in January 2015 through a constitutional amendment following a deadly gun-and-bomb attack on an army-run school in northwestern Peshawar city in December 2014 that killed over 140 people, mostly students.

The military courts -- to which human rights and lawyers associations have been vehemently opposed -- were set up to try hardcore militants who, according to the government, otherwise avoid punishment due to judicial system weaknesses.

The country’s Supreme Court, rejecting rights groups’ appeals against military courts, had also upheld the government’s decision.

The military courts tried some 275 cases over the last two years, handing death sentences to 161 convicted militants and varying jail terms to over 150 others.

Only 21 of the death row inmates were executed during this period, while others’ appeals against their convictions are pending in the supreme and high courts.

Following the Peshawar school attack, Pakistan also lifted a six-year long de facto ban on capital punishment in December 2014.

Over 300 convicts have been executed since December 2014, while nearly 7,000 prisoners remain on death row.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Mart 2017, 18:41