Pakistan scraps trials before military courts after 4 years - InfoNews

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Pakistan scraps trials before military courts after 4 years

April 01, 2019 - 4:06 AM

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan scrapped terrorism trials before special military courts after the tribunals' mandate expired on Monday, ending a measure that had been in place for over four years to help authorities curb militant attacks, a government minister said.

The country resumed military trials for terror suspects in 2015 and lifted a moratorium on the death penalty after a Taliban attack in December 2014 on a school in Peshawar killed more than 150 people, mostly young students.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the courts were re-introduced under special circumstances and "performed well."

"We were near to eliminating terrorism," he added.

Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan's government could not bring the matter of extending the courts before parliament, where opposition parties challenge his every move. The measure had to be backed by two thirds of lawmakers in the 342-seat chamber to pass.

Terrorism cases will now be handled by regular courts, notorious for their bureaucracy and slow justice.

Khan came to power after elections last summer, promising to clean house and do away with rampant corruption.

He has repeatedly demanded that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former President Asif Zardari return "looted money." Sharif is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for corruption and Zardari is facing an investigation for money laundering.

Zardari's aide Farhatullah Babar said the opposition Peoples Party would not support extending the military courts. "The government should strengthen the regular court system instead," Babar said.

Analyst Zahid Hussain said that while the closure of the special military courts might not have a direct impact on Pakistan's fight against terror, it's unclear how the remaining cases of those held on terrorism charges would be handled.

"The regular courts lack the capability to handle terrorism cases," Hussain said. "We either have to strengthen the legal system or they need to find a way to extend the military courts."

Rights groups have criticized the military courts and have campaigned against the death penalty in Pakistan, which was largely used to execute common criminals.

According to Pakistani officials, the special military tribunals over the past four years decided 478 cases and sentenced 284 people to death. Of those, 56 convicted militants have already been executed. Also, 192 other suspects were sentenced to various prison terms.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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