The Senate on Monday passed a resolution seeking a halt to the implementation of the Supreme Court’s verdict on civilians’ trial in military courts, describing it as legally flawed and warning that it may facilitate abettors of terrorism.
Last month, the apex court issued a 4-1 verdict declaring sections 2(1)(d) and 59(4) of the Army Act are “ultra vires the Constitution and of no legal effect.” As such, it ruled, trials of civilians involved in the May 9 riots should not be conducted in military courts.
The Senate resolution, moved by Senator Dilawar Khan, maintained the bench that announced the judgment was not in unanimity, as opposed to previous benches that had upheld trials of civilians under the Army Act. As such, it stated, the decision was legally flawed and should not be implemented until it was considered by a larger bench.
Stating that “apprehension that the invalidation of the jurisdiction of Army courts is likely to facilitate vandals and abettors of terrorism and anti-state activities,” it maintained military courts had played a pivotal role in delivering justice, particularly concerning acts of terrorism.
“The Senate of Pakistan calls upon the apex court to reconsider its decision, urging alignment with the national security paradigm and sacrifices of the martyrs in order to address the concerns raised regarding the ramifications of the judgment on the security and stability of the nation,” it said. It also took exception to the court’s overriding of an act of Parliament, noting it had been duly enacted under the legislative competence of Parliament.
“Prima facie an attempt has been made to rewrite the law by impinging upon the legislative authority of the Parliament,” it said, stressing the trial of those accused of violence against the armed forces under the Army Act was an appropriate and proportional response in line with Pakistan’s existing constitutional framework and statutory regime. The trial of individuals accused of anti-state vandalism and violence under the Army Act serves “as a deterrent against such acts,” it added.
The resolution was opposed by only two senators—Jamaat-e-Islami’s Mushtaq Ahmed and Pakistan Peoples Party’s Raza Rabbani.
Illegal foreigners’ repatriation
The Senate also saw a debate on the interim government’s ongoing drive to deport illegally residing foreigners from Pakistan, with senators lamenting that the policy was boosting “anti-Pakistan sentiments” among Afghans.
Senator Shehzad Saleem said there had been a history of misunderstanding and mistrust between Islamabad and Kabul, adding Pakistan’s deportation policy was motivated by a spike in terrorist activities following the return to power of the Afghan Taliban. “An autonomous state is responsible for ensuring the safety of life and property of its citizens,” he said, but stressed Pakistan has to play a role in regional affairs and promote political dialogue with Afghanistan.
Senator Ishaq Dar, meanwhile, said any refugees and migrants leaving Pakistan had the right to take their properties with them. “If [authorities] expel foreigners, they should do it in a respectful manner,” he said.
Senator Tahir Bizenjo, echoing calls for the respectful repatriation of Afghans, said Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were the worst-hit regions whenever any positive or negative situation arose in Afghanistan. “Hundreds of thousands of people cannot be sent back on such short notice,” he said, adding the deportation should be conducted in a phased manner.
Senator Dilawar Khan called for an in-camera meeting by the government on the matter of Afghan migrants’ repatriation, adding a mechanism should be devised to identify undocumented and unregistered Afghan citizens so they could be returned to their homeland in a civilized way.