Pakistani law allowing military’s anti-terror courts expires

Islamabad: A Pakistani law that gave secret military courts powers to try civilians for terrorism charges expired on Monday while awaiting an extension from the Parliament.

“The Army courts have ended after the expiry of a two-year extension approved in 2017,” an official from the Justice Ministry, requesting anonymity, told Efe news.

However, another source from the public prosecutor’s office, who also asked not to be named, told the agency that chances are that the government may get the Parliament nod to resume these special courts.

“They will probably be extended because there are pending cases,” said the source.

The government has been studying a proposal to extend the authority of these courts but is yet to take any final decision.

Military courts were set up by the country’s Parliament on January 6, 2015 after an attack by Pakistani Taliban militants on a military-run school in Peshawar that killed 125 students in December 2014.

The Parliament passed amendments to the Constitution and to the Pakistan Army Act, allowing for the creation of these courts for two years.

The ghastly attack on the school in the northwestern part of the country also led to then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to lift a moratorium on death penalty for terrorism related cases, which was extended to other crimes in March that year.

The two-year term expired on January 7, 2017, and the Parliament approved a two-year extension on March 28 that year.

The courts have delivered 546 verdicts, including 310 death sentences and carried out 56 executions. Some 234 convicts have received between five years and life term.

The trials in these courts are held secretly and have been criticized by the international community and human rights organizations.