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Pakistan united on anti-terror fight, divided on military courts (Roundup)
By IANS | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 12/24/2014 12:00:00 AM

 Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Wednesday said that the time has come to take “extraordinary measures” to crush terrorism in the country even as political parties remained divided over the issue of military courts for swift disposal of terrorism cases.This came even as a court in Pakistan upheld the death penalty for five convicted terrorists.

Addressing a session of the national parliamentary leaders here, the prime minister said he was pleased with the fact that all the leaders were on the same page concerning the Dec 16 carnage in an army-run school in Peshawar, Geo TV reported.
"The way children were brutally killed... I don't think there is any precedent in this country, or in the world. This is an extraordinary situation in the country which warrants extraordinary measures," Sharif said in the meeting held in the wake of the Dec 16 Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that left over 140 students and teachers dead.

"Terrorism is a cancer-like disease and history will never forgive us if it is not treated now. The responsibility rests on all of us, and we have to take tough decisions against those who want to rip the country apart, those who are killing innocent children and have no mercy in their hearts," he added.

However, political parties attending the parliamentary meeting were divided over the formation of military courts in the country to deal with terrorism cases, one of the key points in the country's proposed anti-terror plan.

While the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) and Qwami Watan Party (QWP) extended support to military courts, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam- Fazl (JUI-F) raised objections to the idea of such courts.

PTI chairman Imran Khan supported the formation of more military courts stressing that the entire nation was ready for the elimination of terrorism. 

PML-Q leader Mushahid Hussain Syed said terrorists could immediately be sentenced with the formation of military courts. He added even the US took the same step to gain success against terrorism.

QWP leader Aftab Sherpao said extraordinary measures were required in these times, emphasising that the country's military and civilian leadership was ready to fight terrorism.

But the MQM said that it was better to apply martial law instead of forming military courts. 

“It's better to apply martial law in the country rather than forming military courts, which is undemocratic. So far, martial law has come into force 100 times. So, one more time won't be a big deal,” MQM chief Altaf Hussain told reporters in a telephonic press conference from Britain Wednesday evening. 

Meanwhile, the Awami National Party (ANP) has sought more time on the matter.

The military courts will be formed for a specific period and will hear terrorism cases, The News International reported citing sources. 

In Wednesday's meeting, Pakistani Army chief, General Raheel Sharif, said that the time has come to take bold decisions and to ensure their effective implementation.

He vowed that “through unity we will emerge triumphant over the two-faced bane of terrorism and extremism”.

The army chief assured that Pakistan army would extend its all out cooperation to the government in crushing the menace of terrorism. 

“We owe it to the next generations to eliminate this scourge,” he added.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that terrorism in the country cannot be eliminated overnight.

He said that when the anti-terror military operation was launched, it was decided that civil-military forces would require time to counter the terrorists and the police was not equipped for this purpose. 

“At this time approximately 10,000 soldiers are deployed in Pakistani cities for the purpose of counter-terrorism,” Geo TV quoted Nisar Ali Khan as saying.

Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court's (LHC) Rawalpindi bench Wednesday accepted the Pakistan government's appeal challenging a stay order issued against the execution of five death row convicts who were involved in an attack on a military camp near Gujrat city in Punjab province in 2012.

The five convicts are Ihsan Azeem, Asif Idrees, Amir Yousaf, Kamran Aslam and Umar Nadeem.

In a related development, Pakistan's higher judiciary decided Wednesday to give top priority to terrorism cases and conduct daily hearings to clear out a backlog pending with the country's anti-terrorism courts (ATCs).

Chief Justice of Supreme Court Nasirul Mulk chaired a meeting to formulate strategy for the speedy disposal of terrorism cases. 

According to Amnesty International, there are over 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan.

Wednesday's meeting decided that terrorism cases would be heard in the ATCs on a daily basis. The chief justice also directed judges to ensure that witnesses, investigators, and defendants appear in court on specified dates of hearing.

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Pakistan united on anti-terror fight, divided on military courts (Roundup)

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