SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)
The federal government has decided to set up five special courts to hear cases related to terrorism registered under the controversial Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) 2014.
A senior law ministry official revealed that special courts will be established in each province including one in the capital to deal with terrorism-related cases that surface during the ongoing military operation in the country.
“Names for the special court judges have been shortlisted, now we will forward these names to the respective high courts chief justices for consultation,” the official added.
Similarly, law secretary Barrister Zafarullah Khan also confirmed that the government has given the green light for the establishment of special courts across the country.
Commenting on the move, an active lawyer Chaudhry Faisal Hussain urged the government to appoint competent, honest and brave judges. He cautioned that the move will provide a legal cover to enforced disappearances in the country.
Marred by controversy, the PPA act, which allows security forces to detain suspects for up to 60 days without disclosing their location or allegations against them, was challenged by Jamat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq earlier this year. However the case has not been fixed for hearing.
In his petition, the JI chief requested the apex court to strike down the entire law as it violates the fundamental rights and Principles of Policy laid down in Part-II (Chapter-I) of the Constitution.
The petition contended that the vires of PPA are inconsistent and in negation of fundamental rights provided in Articles 2-A, 4, 8, 9, 10, 10-A, 12, 14, 15, 19-A, 23, 24 and 25 of the Constitution.
It is further said that the state is responsible for providing security and no citizen shall be deprived of life or liberty in accordance with law.
Raising objections over the government’s plan to set up special courts, the petition said, “The establishment of Special Courts is in violation of Article 10 and 10-A of the Constitution.”
The JI chief further stated that the definition of enemy, alien and combatant enemy in the PPA Act is not in consonance with the Constitution.
Weighing in on the issue, former Additional Attorney General for Pakistan Tariq Mahmood Khokhar, who headed the missing persons’ cell in the Supreme Court, said that geographical distinction for special courts does not make sense as it excludes Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK), Gilgit-Baltistan and most crucially Fata & Pata.
Interestingly, The Express Tribune has learnt that the defence ministry had recommended at least eight special courts. However, the law ministry officials claimed that five courts would be sufficient to deal with the current number of cases in the country.
According to the section 8 of PPA Act, the government in consultation with the chief justice of the concerned high court may appoint any individual as a judge of the special court, who has served as a sessions judge in any province of the country or has been an advocate of the high court for a period of not less than ten years.