Govt not serious about re-establishing military courts, says Zardari

Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) gestures as he addresses a news conference after attending a conference of the Socialist International Asia-Pacific Committee in Islamabad on May 30, 2008. Former premier Nawaz Sharif said he and the widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari, had agreed in talks on May 28 to oust President Pervez Musharraf in the wake of the coalition's victory in February elections. Musharraf on May 29 dismissed speculation that he was going to resign, blasting "rumour-mongers" for spreading stories that he has lost the army's support. AFP PHOTO/Aamir QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)


Days after a Pakistan People’s Party-sponsored all-parties conference failed to reach a consensus about an extension to military courts, party’s Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari alleged Monday the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government was not serious about re-establishing the military courts.

Zardari, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad, also berated the ruling PML-N, saying it had funds for roads, but no money for effective implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP).

“There are weaknesses [in the NAP] but the government is not serious about fixing them,” the former president said as he clarified that his party was not against an extension to military courts.

Zardari, on the occasion, announced his party’s nine recommendations for extension to military courts, and reasserted, ““We have never opposed military courts and are only coming up with recommendations on the proposal. We want a law that defines terrorists; that will become a definition for terrorism. Our aim is not to dishearten our armed forces.”

PPP’s recommendations:

  • Military courts shall be presided over by one sessions judge or additional sessions judge with a military officer.
  • The sessions/additional sessions judge will be nominated by the chief justice of Pakistan.
  • Extension will be of one year from starting date.
  • Right of judicial review by high courts under Article 199 of the Constitution.
  • High court shall decide case within 60 days.
  • Accused to be produced within 24 hours before the concerned court.
  • Accused to be supplied with grounds of arrest within 24 hours.
  • Accused shall have right to engage counsel of his choice.
  • Provisions of Qanoon-i-Shahadat 1984 shall apply.

Zardari said he party was open to dialogue on these points with the government or the army.

He further said that his party intended to pressure the government to strengthen witness protection and disburse funds to the provinces and judiciary for more effective implementation of the National Action Plan.

Responding to Zardari’s presser, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the government would examine the points and provide copies of them to all political parties.

“There was consensus earlier on two years [extension in military courts],” Dar said, “But the PPP has suggested only one year… We will sit tomorrow or day after and discuss them,” he added.

“Because there are new recommendations now, we will have to examine them,” Law Minister Zahid Hamid said. “The clerical amendments shouldn’t be an issue, and through discussion with all political parties we will try to reach consensus on this again.”