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Political Play
Zulfiqar Shah
Militarisation of Pakistan Parliament 14 January, 2015
The damage is done finally. The Parliament and the electoral parties have axed themselves by undertaking legislation on the nefarious bill for establishing military courts across Pakistan. And, in the wink of eye, the Pakistan Army started establishing military courts in Sindh, despite the fact that the religious terrorism is almost non-existent there.
On the other hand, the prominent among Pakistani politics and civil society have started uttering either the regretful statements or giving the lame excuses. Co-Chairman of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), the largest opposition party in the parliament, Asif Ali Zardari has said that PPP has voted in the favor of the bill in a bid to save the coming generations.

PPP’s Chairman Bilawal Bhutto in its hard statement against its own party’s Parliamentarians said that the Parliament has lost its honor by legislating such an anti-democratic bill. PPP’s Aitizaz Ahsan said he is ashamed for voting in favor of the bill. PPP’s Senator Reza Rabani said that he voted against his conscience.

Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) earlier said that it was reviewing the bill for challenging it in the Supreme Court of Pakistan; however they are seemingly silent after Asma Jehangir’s statement that there is no need to challenge the bill. Those who earlier opposed the bill, mainly including Sindhi, Baloch and Pashtun nationalists, are silent now.

Finally, the bill has proved that it is not only the civil bureaucracy and the core civil society in Pakistan that is either highly militarized or under unchallengeable military pressure, but also the political parties of dying Pakistan and the Parliament is militarized now. One can also say that the Pakistani Parliament has bowed down in front of military establishment.

Fifty years of military courts trials of the civilian

Military courts in Pakistan are trialing civilians since last fifty years particularly those who are political dissenters -- the secessionists and the civil democrats. First such well know trial was of Hassan Nasir of the Communist Party of Pakistan during 1960s. The second such well known trial was of Ashok Kumar, which was held in early 1970s. Ashok was a Sindh rights student activist from Sindh University. He was not a secessionist at all.

Thousands civilian were trialed by military court and were awarded capital punishment in last four decades -- during the military rule of General Ziaul Haq (1980s); the civil rule of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif (1990s); military rule of General Musharaf (2000s); and the previous term of PPP and the current term of PML-N.

All those in Pakistan who were / are enforcedly disappeared especially from Sindh and Balochistan or are killed in the military torture cells are basically being trialed in the military courts. The prominent among them in Sindh includes Muzaffar Bhutto, Asif Baladi, Akash Mallah and the rest. Even those Sindhi nationalists who were burnt alive in 2011 were trialed in absentia by the military.

It is a practice in Pakistan that the military usually trial popular civil and political leadership from Sindh and Balochistan even without letting the under trial persons know about their court martial. Thus, a large number of the political assassinations in Sindh and Balochistan are result of the court martial of the civilians carried in absentia.

Militarily courted bill and the realities

The bill gives Pakistan Army an edge to trial those who are religious terrorists and also those who are thought to be wants to be anti-Pakistan / against the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan.

There are some important perspectives of the bill: (i) The bill is aimed to protect Pakistan Army’s heinous crimes of abducting, trialing and killing the dissenters; (ii) it also aims to give a legal and / or Parliamentarian clean chit to the ethnic cleansing in Pakistan carried by the Pakistan Army; (iii) it will further strengthen the military interference in the civilian domain; (iv) the legislation has proved that the months long sit-ins carried by the Imran Khan and Cleric Qadiri have helped military in winning the battle against the civilians.

Some questions

  1. Can this be read that after legislation of this bill, all previously held such trials by the Pakistan Army have now clearly become a crime, because they were carried without the nod of Parliament?

  2. Pakistan Army has claimed in front of international community that it has successfully undertaken military operation in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) against the Taliban and other religious terrorists. The need for passing this bill proves that either these claims were false or this bill is aimed against the political dissenters in Sindh and Balochistan.

  3. In case of freedom wars or armed insurgencies, most of the armies around the world usually do not need such legislations. In that perspective, this bill seems to target political dissenters more than that of the terrorists.

  4. If these courts trial the freedom fighters from Balochistan or to some extent from Sindh (freedom movement in Sindh is peaceful until now), who will ensure that the international legal bindings, particularly protocols of Prisoners of Wars (PoW) would be followed?

  5. The bill contradicts the fundamental guarantees to the citizens given by the Constitution of Pakistan. Who will hold Pakistani Parliament answerable against this anti-constitutional act?

  6. The bill contradicts Universal Declaration of Human Rights; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; some clause of Vienna Convention; various resolutions hitherto adopted and / or passed by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA); United Nations Security Council (UNSC); and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). If this bill is not challenged within the certain time frame in the Supreme Court of Pakistan; would it be possible for rights activists’ fraternity outside Pakistan to move to the concerned United Nations bodies against this bill?

  7. Since Sindhi and Baloch civilians are already being victimized by the military courts since last fifty years; the legislation of such bill may only enhance the number of victims. What if the freedom war in Balochistan and peaceful freedom movement in Sindh turns into the large scale insurgency as reaction of crimes committed by these military courts?

Civil decline

Pakistan's People Party (PPP) has a history of conflicts with the military establishment of Pakistan. Recently, over two hundred children died in Thar Desert due to drought because the military establishment wanted to keep Sindh Government out of people’s perception in the area because it houses the largest coal as well as other natural resources.

Sindh Government even called back extra doctors that were serving in the area due to drought only on the hidden pressure of Chhor Cantonment forwarded by the South Corps Command based in Karachi.

In brief, Sindh Government failed to save generations of Sindh in Thar Desert. Does it suit PPP leaderships to issue the statements mentioning that PPP has saved generations by legislating in favor of military courts? The most important is the question that why PPP that done enormously great in Sindh during the year 2014, which was unmatchable with its political history in Sindh during last twenty five years, have taken such an ugly U-turn?

Yes. One can say that civilians in Pakistan have lost their battle against military’s hegemony very recently. The military courts bill is an indicator that the freedom movements as well as people’s will for sovereign Sindh and Balochistan is stronger than past.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
Zulfiqar Shah is a stateless activist, analyst, and researcher. Although he is a refugee, and living a life in exile, he is a born Sindhi and South Asian. Currently he lives in India.
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