ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Tuesday passed ‘The Constitutional (Twenty Eighth Amendment) Act 2017’ providing that military courts would continue to functioning in the country for another two years.
The bill moved to the House by Law Minister Zahid Hamid on March 22 was passed with 78 to three votes after marathon discussion on it by the members from all political parties.
The members, who opposed the bill included Usman Kakar and Sardar Azam Musakhel, both from Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP), and Gul Bushra of Balochistan National Party.
After the first reading, Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani put the bill to the House clause by clause for vote and the House adopted clause II, clause III and preamble with votes not less than thirds of the total members of the House. In all 78 members voted in favour and none against these clauses and the preamble.
The amendment in preamble could not be moved to the House as mover Maulana Ata-ur Rehman of Jamiat Ulema Islam was not present in the House.
In the third reading of the bill, division of members was made and the counting revealed that 78 members had voted in favour of the bill and three members against the bill. Therefore, the Chairman announced that the bill was passed with votes not less than two thirds of the total members of the House.
The bill states that the military courts established in the country after 21st constitutional amendment in January 2015 had yielded positive results in combating terrorism and it was in national interest to continue with this special measure for another two years.
Therefore, after becoming an act, “it shall come into force at once and shall be deemed to have taken effect on and from January 7, 2017” and “the provisions of this amendment act shall remain in force for a period of two years from the date of its commencement and shall cease to form part of the Constitution and shall stand repealed on the expiry of said period.”
As per a provision incorporated in Article 175, the provisions of this article shall have no application to the trial of persons under any of the acts mentioned in this bill about Army Act and Anti-Terrorism Act, who claim or are known to belong to any terrorist group or organization misusing the name of religion or a sect or commit grave and violent act of terrorism against the state.
This bill also provides a new provision than the 2015 bill that provides four facilities to those detained or arrested including that
any arrested terrorist shall be produced before the court within 24 hours; shall be given charge sheet; shall be facilitated with to hire a counsel of his choice and if he cannot, the government shall provide him a lawyer; and lastly Qanoon-e-Shahdat shall be made part of this act.
The bill also states that the expression ‘sect’ means a sect of religion and does not include any religious or political party regulated under the Political Parties Act 2002.
Winding up discussion on the bill, Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Ishaq Dar appreciated the contribution of political parties to reach consensus for the extraordinary decision to deal with an extraordinary situation.
He informed the House that 10 meetings of the parliamentary committee constituted for the purpose and five meetings of the technical committee were held wherein a broader consensus was reached and amendment of PPPP were also incorporated in the bill.
In this regard the minister mentioned to changing the word ‘use of religion or sect’ with ‘misuse of religion or sect’ and the four
provisions mentioned regarding production of accused, charge sheeting him, provision of counsel and making Qanoon-e-Shahadat its part.