Opp tells govt to clarify why it wants military courts back

* PPP, JUI-F oppose any extension to military courts * JI to stand with opposition * PTI to give stance after listening to government

Opp tells govt to clarify why  it wants military courts back

ISLAMABAD: Following the government's invitation to political parties for consultation on the revival of military courts, major opposition parties in the National Assembly on Tuesday expressed scepticism about the proposal and sought a briefing from the government over the courts' two-year performance, besides asking the rulers why they wanted to bring back the 'controversial' courts.

On Monday, the federal government decided to start consultations with parliamentary groups in the national legislatures to re-establish military courts in different parts of the country to carry out trials of hardcore terrorists.

The meeting, attended by top civilian and military brass, emphasised that military courts had played an extremely important role at a very crucial juncture of action against extremism and terrorism.

The National Assembly speaker chaired a consultative meeting with political parties on Tuesday, during which the government was asked to brief the opposition on military courts, the National Action Plan (NAP) and other issues related to war on terror.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) had promised to improve the judicial system, as it has failed to provide justice. "No steps have been taken in this regard," he said, adding that members of the ruling party were also confused over the matter, as some were backing military courts while others did not.

A spokesman for the PTI criticised the courts as undemocratic, but said the party would hear out the government's plans. "We have asked the government to tell us what reforms have been made to the (civilian) anti-terrorism courts," said Fawad Chaudhry. "But we have not made a final decision."

On the other hand, leader of opposition in NA Khurshid Shah said that his party had consensus on the issue of military courts, and the government "must brief us on the status of NAP and Operation Zarb-e-Azb".

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) also opposed extension to military courts and recorded its protest over the amendments to the NAB ordinance.

PPP leader Syed Naveed Qamar said they had supported the military courts under compulsion, but they would not back them this time. He said that they would hear the government's stance, but would not support the courts. JUI-F leader Akram Durrani said they were sticking to their old point on the issue that they would not support military courts.

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) declared that they, too, would stand with the opposition parties on the issue and resist the reinstatement of military courts. The NA speaker later said that another meeting had been scheduled for January 17 to mull over the matter.