Uncertainty about military courts affects terror cases fate

KARACHI: Since the federal government is still undecided about the fate of military courts set up two years ago under a special law, the Sindh apex committee deferred a decision about the referral of nine terrorism cases to the interior ministry on Monday.

Murtaza Wahab, adviser to the Sindh chief minister, told Dawn that the apex committee meeting took no decision about sending the nine cases to military courts as these courts will cease to exist this week if no fresh legislation is carried out.

The military courts were set up in January 2015 under the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015, commonly known as the 21st Constitution Amendment. The special legislation, a part of the National Action Plan, had a sunset clause by virtue of which it would expire on Jan 7 and the military courts would cease to exist.

Sindh Home Secretary Shakeel Mangnijo told a meeting of the provincial apex committee on Monday that a subcommittee of the apex body — Sindh Legal Committee — had completed scrutiny of nine terrorism cases to be sent to the military courts for trial.

The legal committee, headed by the home secretary, includes the law secretary and one official each from the police, Rangers and Intelligence Bureau. The body thrashes out a list of the cases, presents them before the apex committee and then sends them to the interior ministry after the chief minister’s approval.

The interior ministry carries out a scrutiny of the cases before rejecting or referring them to military courts.

The meeting, chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, was also attended by top military officials in the province.

Besides, the home secretary informed the meeting that over the last two years the Sindh government had recommended a total of 105 cases to the interior ministry, but the latter referred only 29 of them to military courts. Currently, he added, 19 such cases were being heard by military courts.

The ‘indifferent’ attitude of the federal government towards the implementation of key provisions of the National Action Plan also came under discussion.

A statement quoted Murad Ali Shah as telling the meeting: “We are holding the 19th apex committee meeting today which speaks louder of our commitment, but I am sorry to say that the federal government has failed to implement some important clauses of the National Action Plan.”

The chief minister said the federal government’s policy on issues like banned outfits and repatriation of illegal immigrants was “not clear”. He also regretted that the National Counter Terrorism Authority had not started functioning as yet.

Maula Bux Chandio, the CM’s adviser on information, later said at a news briefing that the federal government had not implemented the NAP provisions pertaining to seminaries, illegal arms and banned outfits.

He said illegal weapons were not manufactured in Sindh and it was the federal government’s duty to stop transportation.

“Sincerity of purpose is needed for efficient implementation of the National Action Plan.”

However, PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry contested Mr Chandio’s statement, claiming that normality had returned to Karachi because of efforts made by the federal government.