ISLAMABAD - After a majority of parliamentary parties informally agreed to give an extension to military courts on Tuesday, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced to stay away from attending the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) called multi-party conference scheduled for March 4.

Soon after the parliamentary committee headed by National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq “agreed” to give extension to military courts in the absence of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — the major position party in the Parliament — PTI chief Imran Khan immediately announced that his party would not be participating in the PPP called multi-party conference.

“PTI will not be attending PPP-called APC as Parl  Parties [parliamentary parties] ldrs’ mtg [leaders meeting] has agreed to mly [military] courts Constit [constitution] Amend Bill to be tabled in NA on 6 March,” the PTI chief said on his Tweeter account.

Later, the party decided to reconsider their decision of not attending the conference after a PPP delegation met with PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

“We will convey the invitation request of the PPP for a participation in the multi-party conference to PTI Chairman Imran Khan and will inform the PPP about the party decision,” Qureshi told the media after his meeting with a five-member PPP delegation led by Senator Farhatullah Babar. Former Senate chairman and PPP Secretary General Nayyer Bokhari was also part of the delegation.

The PPP has called the multi-party conference in Islamabad to build up a national consensus on the extension to the military courts.

“I have conveyed the PPP invitation to the chairman and he has said that he would respond after consulting the party leadership,” Qureshi said while talking to The Nation. 

“I met with the PPP delegation and they conveyed the message of former president and PPPP President Asif Ali Zardari,” he said. He, however, said that the PPP’s purpose of building the national consensus on the military court had been achieved at the Tuesday’s meeting because all parties had agreed on the extension issue.

The parties have agreed on a two-year extension instead of three years and reservations of the JUI-F have also been addressed, he said.

Earlier while talking to the media, Qureshi appreciating the performance of military courts in eradicating the menace of terrorism. He said that the national political leadership had decided in principally to extend the military courts. “The PTI is part of that decision,” he said adding that it had been decided that a session of the National Assembly would be summoned on March 6 to get a constitutional amendment passed in this regard. He said that the constitutional amendment will be enforced from January 7, 2017, the date on which the military courts had seized to function after completion of the two-year term due to a sunset clause in the law.

Qureshi said that it had been decided that the government would give a timeline as well as unveil its plan to the Parliament to implement the constitutional amendment. It had been decided that all pending cases, after the period of two years, would be transferred to the courts established under Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997.

It had been decided for the first time that a parliamentary oversight committee comprising both the houses of the Parliament would be formed to examine the performance of the military courts. The committee would continue examining the performance of these courts after every 30 or 60 days, he said.

Meanwhile, PPP leader Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the pronouncement of parliamentary parties minus the PPP was not a consensus decision.

“This is not an ordinary legislation and the government doesn’t have strength in the Upper House to pass the amendment without the PPP,” he said. He said that the PPP has serious reservations on some provisions of the draft constitutional amendment and they need to be addressed. “We want a consensus decision on military courts and our multi-party conference would try to build a consensus,” he said.