Senate passes Army Act, postpones voting on military courts’ revival

Waqar Satti

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2017 but postponed voting on the bill seeking revival of military courts until next week.

The Army Act 2017 further amends the Pakistan Army Act 1952. Law Minister Zahid Hamid, who tabled the bill, said that in January 2015 the Pakistan Army Act 2015, along with the 21st Constitution amendment, was passed to try hardcore terrorists in military courts.

He said terrorism remains a threat to the integrity and security of the country and it is imperative to extend special measures adopted earlier. He further said that four additions have been made in the previously passed Pakistan Army Act 2015.

Maulana Attaur Rehman of JUI-F opposed the bill, saying “terrorism should not be linked with any religion, group or sect”. His objection was rejected by majority of the Senate.

No decision could be reached on the 28th Amendment Bill 2017, which pertains to the revival of military courts for another two years, due to the absence of some members and non-seriousness of a few others.

Only 67 members were present in the Senate, whereas for two-thirds majority to be achieved at least 69 members are needed. The voting on the 28th Amendment has subsequently been postponed to Tuesday, March 28.

The 28th Amendment has already been passed by the National Assembly, when 255 NA members voted in favour while only four voted against the bill on Tuesday.

The bill recommends a two-year extension in the term of military courts. It also demands implementation of the law of evidence during the proceedings.

The other points of the bill recommend that the suspect be brought in front of a court within 24 hours and be entitled to have a lawyer of their choice.

The parliamentary parties last week had reached a consensus on establishing military courts in the country for another two years.