Military courts cease to exist

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ISLAMABAD – The military courts established two years ago ceased to continue Friday and all the pending and fresh cases relating to terrorism offences would be transferred to the anti-terrorism courts, sources said.

These courts were set up weeks after terrorists attacked the Army Public School, Peshawar, under the 21st Constitutional Amendment and Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2015, for two years, which became ineffective after January 7.

Under these courts, nearly 200 hardcore terrorists have been sentenced to death and a large number of cases are under investigation.

The apex committees set up at provincial level to monitor the state of terrorist activities in the country also referred many cases of terrorism to the military courts.

Although there was no official word from the federal government, a private TV channel quoted Federal Interior and Narcotics Control Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan as saying, “The military courts will expire today at midnight (night between Friday and Saturday)”.

According to the TV channel, the interior minister said the military courts were set up for two years with the consensus of all the political parties and no extension in these courts is being considered. He affirmed the anti-terrorism courts will take up all such cases after expiry of the military courts.

On December 17, Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, at the outset of the proceedings of the house, invited the attention of the government towards the expiry of the military courts on January 6 and said it would create a constitutional vacuum if it failed to provide legal cover to such courts.

In January 2015, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the joint session of the parliament: “This bill is about military courts trying hardcore terrorists who kill Pakistanis. This is an important day for Pakistan when the nation decided that terrorists will be taken out from the roots.”

The preamble of the two bills stated: “Extraordinary situation and circumstances demand special measures for speedy trial of certain offences relating to terrorism, waging of war or insurrection against Pakistan and the prevention of acts threatening the country’s security by any terrorist or terrorist group using the name of religion or a sect or members of such armed groups, wings and militias.”

Two key new sub-clauses were added to the Pakistan Army Act to describe the people or groups that could be punished under the new law.

The sub-clauses (iii) and (iv), inserted in clause (d) of sub-section (1) of Section 2, state: “Any person who is or claims or is known to belong to any terrorist group or organisation using the name of religion or a sect and raises arms or wages war against Pakistan or attacks the armed forces of Pakistan and law-enforcement agencies or attacks any civil or military installation in Pakistan or kidnaps any person for ransom or causes death of any person or injury or is in possession, storage, fabrication or transport of explosives, firearms, instruments, articles, suicide jackets or vehicles designed to be used for terrorist acts, or receives or provides funding from any foreign or local sources for such illegal activities and acts or does any act to overawe the state or any section of the public or a sect or a religious minority or to create terror or insecurity in Pakistan or attempts to commit any of the said acts, within or outside Pakistan shall be punished under this act.”

Sub-clause (iv) says: “Any person who is or claims or is known to belong to any terrorist group or organisation using the name of a religion or a sect, commits an offence mentioned at serial Nos. (i), (ii), (iii), (v), (vi), (vii), (viii), (ix), (x), (xi) (xii), (xiii), (xv), (xvi), (xvii) and (xx) in the schedule to the Protection of Pakistan Act 2014 (X of 2014) shall be punished under this act.”