by Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain has signed a bill to revive military courts for fast trials of terrorism-related cases, just days after the treasury and the opposition parties in the parliament joined hands to approve the amendment in the constitution.
The rare unity of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and major opposition parties on the issue sent a clear message to the militants that the peoples' representatives are in the same trench to fight against terrorism.
The two-year mandate of the military courts had expired in January and the country's Senate and National Assembly separately passed the constitutional amendment to extend its period for another two years.
The government insisted on the extension of the court's tenure as the country still faces challenges of terrorism and only in February some 100 people, almost all civilians, were killed in a series of terrorist attacks in the country. The banned Pakistani Taliban groups and the Islamic State (IS) claimed the brutal and bloody attacks.
The idea behind the establishment of the military courts in 2015 was to put on speedy trial on the militants involved in terrorist activities as their cases would take a long time in the normal courts because of many other pending cases in the courts.
The trial in normal courts of the terrorism-related case had always been a risky job for the judges, lawyers, police, the prosecution and witnesses, as their identity would be known to the militants. The militant groups have carried out several attacks on the judges and lawyers because of hearing terrorism-related cases.
In August last year, some 70 lawyers and court employees were killed in a deadly suicide attack on lawyers who gathered outside a hospital in Pakistan's southwestern Quetta city. The Taliban Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction and the IS had both claimed the terrorist attack.
As part of a new strategy, the militant groups now coordinate and carry out joint attacks, which is a new challenge for Pakistani security forces. As the security forces have deprived the militant groups of their previous basis in the tribal regions, they are now fighting survival war and that is now from the other side of Afghan border.
On April 2, officials in Kurram tribal region said that the militants fired four rockets into Pakistan's border area in a latest attack.
As per the law, the federal government recommends the terrorism-related cases to be hand to the military courts where the accused are given the right of hiring the services of defense lawyers. The convicts also have the right of filing mercy petitions to the president. But Pakistani president has rejected all appeals in terrorism cases.
It is widely believed in Pakistan that the military courts have proved effective to punish those who fight against the state, security forces, government officials, lawmakers, politicians, judges, lawyers, civil society members, media persons and those who reject violent extremism.
The army said last month that the military courts have so far awarded death sentence to a total of 161 terrorists and 30 have been executed.
The outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), its splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, the banned sectarian outfit "Lashkar-e-Jhangvi" and other armed groups have realized that the convictions and executions proved to be a serious blow to them.
The TTP chief Mullah Fazalullah in a new video and several other commanders have spoken against the military courts which means the Taliban top leaders are worried over revival of the courts.