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Pakistani president signs off on military courts

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Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain on Friday gave formal assent to a recently approved bill extending the term of controversial military courts for another two years, state-run Pakistan television reported.

Hussain’s approval was a constitutional requirement after the country’s parliament passed the constitutional amendment with a two-thirds majority last week.

The issue of military courts, which were established in 2015 for a two-year period and abolished in January after completion of their term, had been a bone of contention between the government and the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

The PPP, apparently angry over the alleged persecution of its leaders on terrorism charges, had tabled nine demands in return for supporting the extension.

Among the demands were that the extension would be for only one year and a parliamentary committee would be formed to oversee the functioning of the military courts.

However, the weeks-long deadlock was resolved after the PPP withdrew its major demand and agreed to the two-year extension earlier this month.

Pakistan established military courts in January 2015 through a constitutional amendment following a deadly gun-and-bomb attack on an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in December 2014 that killed over 140 people, mostly students.

The military courts -- to which human rights and lawyers associations have been vehemently opposed -- were set up to try militants who, according to the government, otherwise would avoid punishment due to weaknesses in the judicial system.

Pakistan's Supreme Court, rejecting rights groups’ appeals, also upheld the government’s decision.

Military courts have handed out death sentences to 161 convicted militants and varying jail terms to over 150 others.

Only 22 of the death-row inmates were executed during this period, while others’ appeals against their convictions are pending in the supreme and high courts.

Following the Peshawar school attack, Pakistan also lifted a six-year de facto ban on capital punishment in December 2014.

Over 300 convicts have been executed since December 2014, while nearly 7,000 prisoners remain on death row.

2017.03.31 / 15:12
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