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Pakistan govt looks to pass legislation on establishment of military courts

IANS | May 16, 2023 02:07 PM

ISLAMABAD: After the Pakistan Army's decision to nab all and spare none, establishment of military courts seems to be the way forward for the current government and the establishment, with a special focus on former Prime Minister Imran Khan, PTI leaders and workers, who are being nabbed under the terrorism and army act regulations.

As per sources in the government, the ruling coalition under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif does not trust Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Atta Bandial and many others in the judiciary, who they believe continue to give blanket legal cover to Khan and his party leaders in many cases.

"You can see the anger in the parliament against the Supreme Court Chief Justice Atta Bandial and other judges. The government or even the establishment wants to make a strong statement in response to the May 0 mayhem, and that is something that may not be achieved if Imran Khan or other PTI leaders and workers are put to trial under the current judicial setup, " said a government source.

It is also a fact that as per the law of the land, the Pakistan Army Act or Official Secrets Act cannot be applied on a civilian.

In order to implement both the provisions, an amendment in the Constitution and the Army Act 1952, would be required to reinstate the expansion of jurisdiction of the military courts and allow them to try civilians for terror-related offenses.

Military courts were established in Pakistan on January 7, 2015, for a period of two years, as part of the National Action Plan (NAP) and its 20-point action plan, formulated after the terror attacks on the Army Public School on December 16, 2014, which killing at least 148 people, including children.

The military courts saw serious criticism by global human rights bodies, including the UN, while opposition political parties raised questions over civilians being tried in military courts through secret court trials, prompting questions over fair trial matters.

former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was arrested and taken into custody from Balochistan by Pakistani authorities, was also put to trial on charges of spying, terrorism and espionage under the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act.

He was given death sentence by a Pakistani military court as well, which was later overturned by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), barring the Pakistani government from implementing decision of the military court to give capital punishment and directed them to have him trialed in a civil court.

However, with the current political unrest in the country, in which the ruling government and the military establishment has decided to take on Khan and his anti-military narrative under terrorism related laws, coupled with the distrust that prevails among both institutions in relation to the judiciary's alleged support for the former premier in all legal cases against him; it is believed that all measures would be undertaken to reinstate the military courts and punish PTI workers, its supporters, leaders and even Imran Khan through sanctioned penalties.

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