LAHORE - Though there is broad political consensus on giving extension to the military courts, the PPP is still holding out for a better deal perhaps by holding a multi-party conference on March 4.

Parliamentary leaders from political parties excluding the PPP approved a draft law yesterday granting two-year extension to the military courts and removing apprehensions of the religious and political parties about fair application of the relevant law in its amended form.

Article 175(3) of the Constitution in its present form permits the military courts to try persons belonging to any terrorist group or organisation using the name of religion or any sect.

The government has now agreed to delete the words “using the name of religion or any sect” on the insistence of JUI-F which had made this deletion conditional to its support to the military courts.

Reportedly, a provision has also been made in the proposed amendment that it will not be used against any political or religious party.

Following this development, many have questioned why the PPP was still adamant to hold the moot when all the parties being invited to the conference have already given their consent to extend the tenure of military courts.

Also Read: Military courts to be given 2-year extension: report

The Nation talked to PPP’s Secretary Information Ch Manzoor to know the reasons.

“PPP thinks that the government has confused the definition of a ‘terrorist’ by its proposed amendment in the Constitution. Now any person belonging to any party or organisation may be held and tried under charges of terrorism,” he said, adding that there was no need to delete certain words from the law to appease a religious party.

“The word ‘terrorist’ needs to be clearly defined to avoid misuse of the law,” he said.

The PPP seems apprehensive of the application of Article 175(3) of the Constitution after Dr Asim Hussain’s episode since its leadership believes he was neither a terrorist nor an abettor in any case.

And this is perhaps the reason why the PPP wants the government to commit on the parliamentary oversight of NAP to ensure fairness and transparency in the whole process.

Giving another reason for holding the multi-party conference, the PPP leader said that the desired extension in the tenure of military courts was not the sole agenda of their planned moot.

“We also want to discuss issues related to CPEC and overall security situation in the context of country’s foreign policy”, he said.

Ch Manzoor recalled that decision to establish military courts had been taken at an All Parties Conference held on January 2, 2015 after the deadly attack on APS Peshawar.

“Logically, the government should have consulted this forum again to seek approval in the extension of military courts after giving a detailed briefing to the parties about what the government had achieved in the last two years,” he stated.

The PPP spokesperson further stated that the government has defaulted on many of its commitments made in the joint declaration of the previous moot despite passage of considerable time.

“The government had agreed to bring about reforms in the existing judicial system to avoid the military courts in future. Among other things, the proposed measures at that time also included provision of security to the judges and the witnesses to enable them try the terrorists without any fear. But nothing of the sort has been achieved as yet”, he said.