The government may call an All Parties Conference (APC) to evolve a broader consensus on a two-year extension to military courts if the ongoing negotiations with opposition political parties continue to remain inconclusive, informed sources told Business Recorder.
Sources privy to the development revealed that the military has sought a two-year extension of the special courts that would enable the ongoing trials of terrorists in custody to be concluded.
Through a press release on January 8, 2017, the ISPR announced that “the military courts have ceased to function on expiry of mandated period,” adding “the disposal through military courts has yielded positive effects towards reduction in terrorist’s activities.”
This statement was followed by negotiations between the government and opposition parties on granting an extension to the special courts for another two years but there has been no consensus so far. The reason for lack of consensus: accusations by the opposition against the government that its performance has been poor with regard to judicial reforms and implementation on National Action Plan (NAP).
The sources further said the government had also planned a briefing for the opposition political parties on January 31, and would respond to their concerns and questions at that time. “If no consensus is developed, then the next option is to call an APC on the matter,” said a source who requested for anonymity.
According to Lieutenant General Talat Masood, a senior defence analyst, the military wants an extension in the special courts for valid reasons because the government failed to bring judicial reforms in the last two years.
According to him, a one-year extension should be given to the military courts and at the same time the government should also make legislation to strengthen the judicial system – providing protection to the prosecution and witnesses.
He said “military courts were established because of the loopholes in our judicial system that is unable to punish hardcore terrorists,” adding the government needed to undertake measures to strengthen the judicial system. “Once a strong judicial system with protection to prosecution and witnesses is in place, reliance on military courts would come to a natural end,” he added.
The government in January 2015, through 21st constitutional amendment, allowed special courts for a period of two years to try terrorists, soon after the horrendous Army Public School (APS) attack in Peshawar that killed 144 schoolchildren and staff.
“It is necessary to try the terrorists in custody with a view to punishing them, they have been involved in a bloodbath of innocent people but at the same time it is also necessary that the government should fulfil its obligation to implement National Action Plan in letter and spirit,” Lieutenant General Talat Masood (retd) said, adding the gains as a result of the military operation Zarb-e-Azb needed to be consolidated through effective measures.
The terrorists’ attacks significantly declined last year. The success gained in the counter-terrorism operations and the significant role played by the military court were particularly mentioned by former army chief General Raheel Sharif (retd) in his address to a session titled ‘Terrorism in the digital age’ at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday.
He said that 2016 had witnessed a significant decrease in terrorism and stressed the need for intelligence sharing to combat terrorism.
Defending the establishment of military courts, General Sharif said: “I openly admit that we had military courts, and that 170 militants were convicted and some of them were even sentenced to death.” “I must admit also that the military courts were the need of the hour, in those unusual times that unusual arrangement was required, and of course now we see deterrence for those who are slowly getting indoctrinated,” the former army chief added.