World Bulletin / News Desk
Pakistan’s controversial military courts will no longer be functioning from Saturday after completing their two-year term, officials said.
“The military courts’ two-year term has been completed on Friday. The government has no plans to extend their tenure,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was quoted as saying by local channel Geo TV.
Pakistan had established military courts in January 2015 through a constitutional amendment following a gruesome gun-and bomb attack on an army-run school in northwestern Peshawar city in December 2014, which killed over 140 people, mostly students.
All the terrorism related cases, which were being tried in the military courts, will now be taken up by the anti-terror courts, the interior minister said.
The army courts -vehemently opposed by the human rights and lawyers associations- were set up to try the hardcore militants who, according to the government, otherwise avoid punishment due to weak and cumbersome judicial system.
The country’s Supreme Court, while rejecting the appeals from human rights organizations against army courts, had also upheld the government’s decision.
The military courts tried some 275 cases in last two years, in which 161 militants were handed down death penalties, while over 150 were given varying jail terms. Only 12 out of total 161 death row prisoners were executed during this period, while others’ appeals against their convictions are pending in the supreme and high courts.
Pakistan also lifted a 6-year long de facto ban on capital punishment in December 2014 following the deadly attack on a Peshawar school.
Over 300 convicts have been executed since December 2014, whereas nearly 7000 death-row prisoners are languishing in jails.
- Decision welcomed
Human rights groups, lawyers, and politicians have described the move as “welcoming” and a step in the right direction.
“We have been opposing the military courts since their inception because it was against fundamental human rights,” Mahmood-ul-Hassan, a Karachi-based lawyer and human rights activist told Anadolu Agency.
“But, it’s never too late. If the government has realized the negative effects of army courts on entire judicial process, it’s a step in the right direction, and we welcome it,” he added.
Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the the country’s largest Islamic parties, which had not voted in favor for the formation of the military courts dubbed the government’s decision as “a good development.”
“In a democratic society and government, there is no place for military courts. We should let the normal judicial process continue,” he told Anadolu Agency.