The Pakistan government on Tuesday said it would convene fresh talks with opposition parties after former president Asif Ali Zardari extended his ‘conditional’ support to the reopening of military courts.
The government had announced to present a draft law in the Parliament at the start of this week to amend the Constitution to create military courts for another two years to try the terrorists.
However, main opposition party, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Zardari had said that his party would accept military courts if they were created only for one year.
PPP on Tuesday submitted nine recommendations to the government.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that government would examine the recommendations.
“There was consensus earlier on two years period for military courts but the PPP has suggested only one year, so we will sit with other political parties tomorrow or day after and discuss it,” he said.
On February 28, majority of the parties consented to an extension for another two years. The meeting was, however, boycotted by the PPP.
“Our party has been in the forefront of fight against terrorism and we have made sacrifices, but we want a law that defines terrorists, that will become a definition for terrorism,” Zardari said, adding that the PPP had no intention to dishearten the armed forces.
The recommendations say that military courts shall be presided over by one sessions judge or additional sessions judge with a military officer and that the sessions/additional sessions judge will be nominated by Pakistan’s chief justice. The extension period will be for one year and not two years.
Cases will be subject to judicial review by high courts under Article 199 of the Constitution and High court shall decide case within 60 days. All accused to be produced within 24 hours before the concerned court and explanation within 24 hours for their arrest. Accused shall have the right to engage counsel of their choice.
Zardari said his party is open to dialogue, whether with the government or the army.
The controversial military courts were formed after the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014 to quickly dispose off cases against terrorists.
The military courts were disbanded in January after a clause in the Constitution, under which they were established, expired. Since then, political parties and government have been unable to reach a consensus to extend the courts’ tenure and revive the clause.
Rights bodies had been critical of military courts which operated in secrecy and did not strictly followed the procedure of civil courts.
Since February 2015, a total of 274 individuals were convicted in 11 military courts. As many as 161 individuals were handed down death sentence out of whom 12 were executed.