ISLAMABAD: Pakistani lawmakers on Tuesday approved two bills in the Parliament to provide constitutional cover to special courts for conducting trials of suspects involved in terrorist activities.
The 21st Constitutional Amendment and Army Act Amendment 2015 were approved by the National Assembly and Senate today.
In the National Assembly the bills were approved unopposed as 247 members voted in favour of the laws.
Following approval in the National Assembly, Senators also approved the amendments which will now be sent to President Mamnoon Hussain to be signed into law.
Members of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl group) abstained from voting over reservations. Lawmakers from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf were not present in the National Assembly as their resignations are pending with the speaker.
Decision for extraordinary measures was taken by elected leaders: PM
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the decision for extraordinary measures was taken by Pakistan’s elected leadership.
Prime Minister Sharif on the floor of the Senate thanked Asif Ali Zardari, Altaf Hussain, Imran Khan, Chaudhry Shujaat and the entire political leadership of the country for the passage of the bills which would provide constitutional cover to special courts.
The prime minister added that even though JUI-F Maulana Fazlur Rehman did not vote he still stood with the national leadership.
Prior to the 21st Amendment and Army Act Amendment 2015 being approved in the Senate, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the decision of which cases will be heard by the military courts will be made by the government.
The prime minister went on to say that the actions were not only for all political parties but also for the whole nation which was against all the terrorists.
The PM said that today was a congratulatory day for Pakistan as the nation had decided to act in unison and take action in the form of approval by the NA and now the Senate session to hopefully do the same.
He said that they will not rest till the last terrorist was rooted out and that there was no more hesitancy or hindrance to move forward and take action.
Voted against my conscience, says Rabbani
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani took to the floor of the Senate after the bills had been approved and said he had voted in favour of them against his conscience.
“I have never been this ashamed.”
He added that his vote was that of the party’s which he had fulfilled. “The next course of action will be mine,” Rabbani said.
21st Amendment aimed at protecting people: Shah
Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah said the 21st Constitutional Amendment was aimed at protecting people and making Pakistan a prosperous country as envisaged by founder of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Speaking in the House before the passage of 21st amendment he said that no Muslim and follower of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) could even think to make legislation that is in clash with the tenets of Islam or pass any law for that purpose. The legislation is being framed against those who are using the name of our religion for terrorist activities and maligning Islam which teaches love, peace and tolerance, he said.
Shah said Islam is a religion of love and there is no room in it for any kind of terrorism. According to teachings of Islam, killing of an innocent person is tantamount to killing of the entire humanity, he added.
Khursheed Shah further said the whole nation was united against terrorism and wanted to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country.
He added that it was an important amendment and during the last few days it had been debated on all TV channels and all over the country.
The opposition leader said he was proud of the democratic system which owes its existence to PPP leadership Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Khursheed Shah added: “We were facing the evil of terrorism for the past many years. Pakistan Peoples Party always opposed military courts and talked about independence of judiciary. But the lives of innocent people and protection of their property are more important for his party”.
He said the PPP leadership decided to support the amendment only for safeguarding the bright future of our new generations.
He expressed hope that our forces would follow the constitution.
He also demanded of the Punjab government to take action against those who sabotaged Dua ceremony at the death anniversary of Salman Taseer.
Not taken into confidence over bills: Fazl
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) Chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman reiterated on Tuesday that the government did not take him into confidence over the 21st Constitutional and Army Act Amendment drafts.
Speaking outside Parliament after the amendments had been approved by the National Assembly, Rehman said terrorism is not linked to religion.
He went on to say that although strict measures should be taken to control terrorism in Pakistan, but if only religious institutions were targeted, then it becomes controversial. He stressed that the word ‘Madrassah’ should be removed from the bill.
Earlier, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said he should have the right to submit a petition in the Supreme Court against the establishment of special courts.
21st Amendment is victory of Altaf’s vision: Godil
Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) leader, Rashid Godil said the 21st Constitutional Amendment was a victory of party chief Altaf Hussain’s vision.
Speaking to media, Godil said Islam and terrorists had been separated, adding that action should also be taken against those who misuse special courts.
21st Amendment and Army Act Amendment 2015
The 21st amendment to the Constitution would provide constitutional cover to trial of offences relating to terrorism by military courts while amendment to the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 would extend the jurisdiction of military courts to try terrorists.
The Constitution (21st Amendment) Act, 2015 shall remain in force for two years from the date of its commencement and shall cease to be part of the Constitution and shall stand repealed on the expiration of the period.
The 21st amendment to the Constitution would provide that the provisions of Article 175 shall have no application to the trial of persons under any of the Pakistan Army Act 1952, the Pakistan Army Act 1953, the Pakistan Navy Act 1961 and the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014.
The Article 175 of the Constitution provides for establishment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and high courts in the provinces.
The 21st amendment to the Constitution also 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 first schedule of the Constitution contains laws which are exempted from operation of Article 8 (1) and (2) of the Constitution. These articles are part of Chapter 1 of the Constitution relating to the fundamental rights.
Article 8 (1) of the Constitution says any law, or any custom or usage having the force of law, in so far as it is inconsistent with the rights conferred by this Chapter, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.
Article 8 (2) says the state shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights so conferred and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of such contravention, be void.
The statement of the objects and reasons says an extraordinary situation and circumstances exist which demand special measures for speedy trial of offences relating to terrorism, waging war or insurrection against Pakistan and prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan.
As per amendment to the Pakistan Army Act 1952, a new sub-section (4) has been added according to which the federal government shall have the power to transfer any proceedings in respect of any person who is accused of falling under any offense in jurisdiction of the Pakistan Army Act to be amended pending with any court to a court under this Act.
The new sub-section (5) says any proceedings transferred under sub-section (4) shall be deemed to have been instituted under this Act.
The sub-section (6) says where a case is transferred under sub-section (4), it shall not be necessary to record evidence which has already been recorded.
As amendment to Section 2 of the Pakistan Army Act, two new sub-clauses have been inserted.
According to a new sub-clause, any person who is or claims or is known to belong to any terrorist group or organisation using the name of religion or sect and raises army or wages war against Pakistan or attacks the armed forces of Pakistan and law enforcement agencies, or attacks any civil or military installations in Pakistan or kidnaps any person for ransom or causes death of any person or injury shall be punished under this Act.
The same sub-clause says any person in possession, storage, fabrication or transport of explosives, fire-arms, instruments, articles, suicide jackets or receivers or provides funding from any foreign or local sources for such illegal activities and acts or does any act over-awe the state or any section of 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.
Another new sub-clause in the Pakistan Army Act says any person who is or claims or is known to belong to any terrorist group organisation using the name of religion or a sect, commits an offence mentioned in Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014.
According to an explanation, in this Act, expression ‘sect’ means a sect of religion and does not include any political party registered under any law for the time being in force.
The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act 2015 which shall come into force at once, shall remain in force for a period of two years from the date of its commencement and shall cease to form part of the Act and shall stand repealed on the expiration of the said period unless extended by resolution passed by each house of Parliament.
The statement of objects and reasons says there exists grave and unprecedented threat to the integrity of Pakistan by the raising of arms and insurgency using the name of religion and a sect by groups of foreign and locally funded elements including warriors using the name of the religion or a sect who are to be severely dealt with under the law.