Friday, June 26, 2015

Hearings conclude on 18th and 21st Amendment cases

Phew. The Express Tribune reports here that the Supreme Court of Pakistan today concluded its marathon hearings on the numerous pending challenges to the 18th and 21st Amendments to the Constitution. The case is now submitted. No word on when a decision may come down.

Dawn provided this useful account of the history of military courts in Pakistan:
The first time military courts were introduced in Pakistan was in 1953 during the anti-Ahmedi riots in Lahore, whereas the second such occasion came in Oct 1958 when the first martial law was declared on the night between Oct 7 and Oct 8 and remained in existence for four years. 
The third time such courts were introduced was on March 25, 1969, when Gen Yahya Khan declared martial law that remained in force until Dec 20, 1971. 
Military courts remained operative until April 21, 1972, under a civilian martial law administrator and a large number of trials were held during the period. 
In April 1977, military courts were established for a fourth time when a mini-martial law was clamped on Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. However, the Lahore High Court struck it down while deciding the case of Darvesh Mohammad Arabi
But the longest and the most repressive period in our history was when Ziaul Haq clamped martial law for eight long years and military courts tried a large number of political workers, mediapersons and journalists who suffered long jail terms. 
The next effort was made in 1998, when the Pakistan Armed Forces Acting in Aid of Civil Power Ordinance 1998 was introduced on Nov 20. The ordinance was applied in certain parts of Sindh where the armed forces were called under Article 245 of the Constitution. But the ordinance had provided a special section dealing with appeals against the trials conducted by the military court – a provision missing in the 21st amendment. 
In 1999, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court struck down military courts in the Sheikh Liaquat Hussain case. This judgment is the most relevant in relation to the 21st amendment since the notion that the judicial system has failed to deliver was adequately addressed in the Sheikh Liaquat Hussain case, the counsel had argued.

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