March 07 , 2017

Military courts be given one-year extension: PPP

Zardari presents nine proposals on issue; sessions judge should chair courts; Dar says decision to be taken in consultation with parliamentary leaders

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said that his party was not against the extension in military courts’ tenure, adding that the military courts should be given an extension of one year only instead of two years as proposed by the government.

“The PPP would present a nine-point set of recommendations to the government on the subject,” Asif Ali Zardari said Monday while unfolding the party's legislative proposals in case of revival of military courts along with opposition leaders of both the houses of Parliament — Senate and National Assembly — Aitzaz Ahsan and Syed Khursheed Shah, Farooq H Naek, PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman and PPP Parliamentarians Secretary General Senator Farhatullah Babar.

He said that his party was only forwarding recommendations and not going against the military courts. Zardari added that the PPP would raise the issue in Parliament. He said that the PPP in its suggestions recommended that the suspect should be entitled to have a lawyer of his choice and should be presented before a court for remand within 24 hours.“There’s a difference between the notifications issued regarding the extension of the policing powers of Rangers in Sindh than that of other provinces,” he said in an apparent reference to the recent deployment of Rangers in Punjab.

Zardari said the proposals aimed at safeguarding bare minimum standards of constitutionally guaranteed fair trial on the one hand and preventing misuse of these courts for political victimisation and witch hunting.

The legislative proposals of the military courts which Asif Ali Zardari unfolded on Monday stated, “The military courts will be presided over by session judge or additional session judge along with a military officer.

2. The sessions judge/additional sessions judge will be nominated by the chief justice concerned.

3. The period will be for one year from starting date.

4. Right of judicial review by high courts under Article 199 of the Constitution should be ensured.

5. The high court shall decide the case within 60 day.

6. Accused to be produced within 24 hours before the court concerned.

7. Accused to be supplied with grounds of arrest within 24 hours.

8. Accused shall have right to engage a counsel of his choice.

9. Provisions of Qanoon-e-Shahadat 1984 shall apply.

Zardari said his party intended to present the points for parliamentary discussion eventually."I hope all political forces are present for this parliamentary discussion. We are open to dialogue whether with the government or the army," he said.

He said that the party had provided one year time to assess the law, and that the PPP intended to pressure the government to strengthen witness protection in Sindh and disburse funds to the provinces and judiciary for more effective implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP). "I think there are weaknesses in NAP because the government is not serious and they have not provided them the funds," he claimed.

The former president said there should be definition of terrorist as last time it was stated that the action would be taken against jet black but instead of it Dr Asim Hussain came under it.

Asked whether there was a guarantee that the military courts were not used against the opponent politicians, Zardari said that no one could give such a guarantee as previously when the law was being passed, he played his political capital to convince the other political parties and for the passage of the bill yet there was no guarantee for its political use.

In a reply to another question, he said the government had not made any contact with him on this issue. While responding to another question, he said that the government had enough money to rebuild roads but not for implementing NAP.

The PPP leader vowed to make NAP successful with the help of his political allies and made it clear that their purpose was not to demoralise the Army. “We are with the Army in war against terrorism and will fight along with Army against non-state actors, who are against the country,” he added.

In reply to another question, Asif Ali Zardari said the Nawaz Sharif government was only government which was without foreign minister for last 4 years. “It appears that Nawaz Sharif is afraid if he would appoint anyone from Punjab, he would be stronger than he,” he added.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar said the government would examine the points raised by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on the military Courts and provide its copies to all the political parties.

Responding to the PPP's announcement outside the Parliament House along with Law Minister Zahid Hamid, the finance minister said there was consensus earlier on two-year extension in military courts but the PPP has suggested only one year so they would sit tomorrow or day after and discuss them.

Ishaq Dar said that there was a broader consensus on the extension of military courts and the government would consider the suggestions made by other political parties.

He said that the draft document received from PPP contained nine suggestions regarding military courts which would be considered by them. He said the PPP had suggested to reduce duration of military courts from two years to one year and also called for the inclusion of a session judge in the military courts.

He said today's NA session was also convened for political consultations as it was the demand of all political parties. The finance minister said that the whole nation was united to eradicate menace of terrorism.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid said that consensus was developed on draft bill regarding military courts. “However, the draft presented by PPP contains some basic changes which will be examined in consultation with all political parties."Because there are new recommendations now, we will have to examine them," he said.




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