ISLAMABAD -  The government on Monday agreed to include senators in the on-going consultation process for the revival of military courts.

Parliamentary leaders of different political parties in the National Assembly have held a round of meetings on giving an extension to military courts, but they have failed to reach a consensus.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar made the announcement after opposition lawmakers in the Upper House voiced their concerns for not taking them on board in the consultation process.

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq is heading a committee of the parliamentary leaders in the National Assembly that has met five times to deliberate on the revival of military courts for trial of civilians facing terrorism charges. The two-year term of military courts expired earlier this year.

"I have got a list containing 14 names of heads of parliamentary parties in the Senate and leaders of the house and the opposition leader and the list would be forwarded to the NA speaker for a formal invitation to all of them for participation in the committee meeting being held on February 23," Dar told the Senate.

He said that the senators could also attend tomorrow's meeting of the committee that will discuss the draft of the constitutional amendment bill. He, however, requested the chair that the list could be narrowed down by deleting names of the heads of those parliamentary parties whose party chiefs were already part of the committee. Later, the finance ministry agreed to extend an invitation to all leaders.

Responding to queries of the senators, Dar said that the NA committee was in an informal body and just consulting the issue. He said that the government wanted to get pass the constitutional amendment bill with a consensus and the Upper House could not be ignored in this connection.

While talking about the recent wave of terrorism, Dar informed the house that Lahore and Hayatabad Peshawar incidents had been planned on foreign soil and an involvement of some foreign intelligence agencies could not be ruled out. He said that the prime minister had authorised the security forces to take on terrorists and eliminate them.

Earlier, PML-F lawmaker Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah was the first to raise the issue contending that the government had not taken the house into confidence onthe revival of military courts. He lamented that committee consulting the extension of military courts had no representation in the Senate.  Mushahid Hussain said that the constitutional amendment could not be passed without the consent of the Upper House and why the Senate was not being taken on board. "It was a selective approach and against the spirit of the constitution," he said.  Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani remarked that either the government should change the procedure of the passage of the constitutional amendment bill or the parliamentary leaders of the Senate would have to be included in the committee.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman expressed serious concerns over the poor response of the government to tackle the menace of terrorism and the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP). Showing doubts over the recent anti-terrorism operations in which security forces claimed to have killed over 100 terrorists, she questioned that who were these people and where they were eliminated. "Parliament should be informed who were these 100 terrorists and if the security forces knew about their whereabouts, then why forces waited too long to eliminate them," she questioned. She said that the government’s claim was off the beam that Daesh had no footprints in Pakistan after the organisation claimed the responsibility for the Sehwan Sharif terrorist attack. She said that the government was not ready to brief the house about the situation. Pakistan has to live with Afghanistan, she said and added that the recent decision of the government to hand over a list of some terrorists to Afghanistan was not a new phenomenon. "These lists have been shared since 2012". She said and questioned the reports about the presence of Quetta Shura.

PML-N parliamentary leader in Senate Mushahid Ullah Khan advised Rehman not to make point scoring on the issue. He said why PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari did not visit the blast site of Sehwan Sharif that is located in Sindh where PPP enjoyed power. He said that an office-bearer of PPP has been arrested as an alleged facilitator of the blast.

Meanhile, the Senate chairman while talking about the overall performance Higher Education Commission (HEC) said that the regulatory body had a very limited role after the 18th Amendment. "We have drafted a law (to ascertain the role of the HEC) after the 18th Amendment but there was a vicious campaign from some quarters," he said. He said that the amount of money pumped into the HEC during a military dictator regime also needed to be probed at some proper time. He refused to accept the stance of State Minister on Interior Baleegur Rehman that the HEC should have a role in the verification of degrees to keep the standard of the education high as compared to the other world.  

The house also passed The Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, 2016, on private members' day amid opposition of the treasury benches that the provisions of the bill were a duplication of the government's draft of the bill. Senator Salim Mandviwala was the mover of the bill.

The house also introduced the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2017 moved by Senator Babar Awan that seeks a bar on members of the parliament and the judges of the higher judiciary from holding dual nationality and the bill was also opposed by the government.  The bill seeks to amend the Articles 63, 177 and 193 of the constitution.