ISLAMABAD, Jan 6 (INP): The National Assembly and the Senate on Tuesday adopted the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2015 unopposed paving the way for establishment of military courts to try hard core terrorists.
In the National Assembly on Tuesday morning passed the two bills as 247 Members voted in favour of the laws aimed to set up constitutionally protected military courts to try civilian terrorism suspects and none against.
The Bills were moved by Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights Pervaiz Rashid. The house passed the bills with Amendments furnished by the mover and Federal Minister Rana Tanveer. Members of the National Assembly belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) abstained from voting.
The provisions of the Act shall remain in force for a period of two years from the date of its commencement.
The constitutional amendment bill was required to be passed by two-thirds of the total participants in both the 342-seat National Assembly and the 104-seat Senate; however, for amendment in the Army Act, a simple majority was required.
The two bills – the Constitution (Twenty-first Amendment) Bill and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) — were expected to have been passed a day earlier but voting was deferred after the government fell short of the required two-thirds majority – 228 members – for the passage of the amendments. In addition the Prime Minister wanted to address the concerns of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, JUI(F) while the PPP members were also not in favour of the passage of the bill on the birth anniversary of their leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The amendment is aimed at speedy conviction of terrorists through Special Trial Courts headed by army officers.
The preamble of the amendment says extraordinary situation and circumstances exist which demand special measures for speedy trial of certain offences relating to terrorism, waging of war or insurrection against Pakistan and for prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan by the terrorist groups using the name of religion or a sect and also by the members of armed groups, wings and militias.
The 21st amendment provides for entering the Pakistan Army Act 1952, the Pakistan Army Act 1953, the Pakistan Navy Act 1961 and the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014 in the first schedule of the Constitution.
The house also passed The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill to amend Pakistan Army Act 1952. A new clause was also inserted in the bill under which the provisions of this act shall prevail in case there is any conflict between this act and any other law.
Under amendment in clause D of Army Act 1952, any person who belongs to any terrorist group or organization and uses the name of religion or a sect and wages war against Pakistan will be tried under this act.
Those attacking the armed forces, the law enforcement agencies and any civil or military installations will also be punished under this act.
The cases of kidnapping for ransom or the incidents causing death to any person or injury will also be brought to justice through this amendment. Those in possession of explosive material, fire arms, suicide jackets or vehicles will also be tried under the act.
The provisions of the two bills shall remain in force for a period of two years from the date of their commencement.
Earlier in the morning, the Prime Minister hosted a breakfast meeting which was attended by around 150 parliamentarians from various political parties to address some of the reservations. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Qaumi Watan Party chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao were among those absent from the meeting which was being held in the Speaker’s Lounge.
Premier Sharif took the guest parliamentarians into confidence on bills empowering military courts and assured them that the law would not be misused.
He stressed that the measures were the need of the hour and reservations held by JUI-F would be adequately addressed.
Separately, a government delegation comprising Kamran Murtaza, Barrister Zafarullah and Pervaiz Rasheed also met the JUI-F chief in order to convince him to vote in favour of the amendment bills.
Fazl’s objection remains on the specification of religious and sectarian groups in the bills. Meanwhile, sources said lawmakers from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have said that if specifications in relation to religious and sectarian groups engaged in terrorist activities were removed, the amendments would have no real meaning.
The Senate Tuesday evening also passed Constitution (21st Amendment) Bill 2015 with 78 votes in favour and none against. This is more than the two-third majority required to amend the Constitution. The house also unanimously adopted Pakistan Army Amendment Bill.
Both the bills were moved by Minister for Law and Justice Senator Pervaiz Rashid.
The two bills would now be sent to the President for his assent to become part of the Constitution and the statute book, clearing the way for creation of special courts, headed by Army Officers, for trial of terrorists.
Earlier responding to points raised by some members in the Senate Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed the confidence that the 20 point National Plan of Action against Terrorism would help restore durable peace in the country.
The Prime Minister said the Constitutional Amendment and amendment in Army Act would go a long way in effectively trying hard core terrorists who kill innocent people and personnel of armed forces and law enforcing agencies.
Nawaz Sharif said both the Constitution Amendment Bill and amendment in the Army Act relating to establishment of special court would remain operative for two year. The decision about referral of cases to the special court would be made by the Government.
Mian Nawaz Sharif gave background as to why the need arose for these amendments aimed at setting up of the special courts, headed by Army Officers. He said immediately after Peshawar tragedy, the national leadership gathered in Peshawar at his invitation and decided to form a committee for formulating a National Plan of Action against Terrorism. The Committee completed its task within the stipulated time of one week and the national leadership met once against in Islamabad where it was unanimously decided to amend the Constitution and the Army Act.
The Prime Minister said parliamentary parties gave their input for drafting of these amendments and attempts were made till this noon to address reservations of the two parties. He said, in fact, their viewpoint was accommodated but still they did not take part in the legislative process in the National Assembly. He said they should participate in the process as their leaders too were targeted by the terrorists.
Mian Nawaz Sharif said besides taking toll of precious human lives the problem of terrorism was also badly affecting the economy of the country. Therefore, the national leadership decided unanimously to go whole hog against the menace with full force.
The Prime Minister expressed resolve of the Government to enforce the new laws with full force to eliminate terrorism and restore peace in the country. He said there is no justification to remain in power if we cannot move decisively against terrorists.
He was confident that the amendment bills passed today would help root out terrorism, eliminate armed militias and restore vitally needed peace.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the military leadership including Chief of Army himself was part of the process that resulted into national consensus about establishment of the special courts to try terrorists. He said the army leadership categorically stated that it was not their desire but need of the hour. This viewpoint is subscribed by the Government and all political parties. He said the nation is determined to fight terrorism till elimination of the last terrorist.