Pakistan's special military courts, which were set up in 2015 to try civilians on terrorism charges, have ceased to exist after the government failed to get the support of the Opposition to extend their tenure, according to a media report on Monday.
The courts were set up weeks after the Peshawar school attack on December 16, 2014, for speedy trial of hardcore militants. The massacre left over 150 people dead, mostly students. These courts were often criticised for not using due process or channels while putting a suspect to trial. One such court was used to convict Indian citizen Kulbhushan Jadhav under charges of espionage. According to the Indian government, Jadhav was not given a chance to defend himself. No evidence was produced against him in the court and yet he was convicted of being an Indian spy.
Criticised by several international human rights organisations, the Pak military courts were set up for two years but later the tenure was extended in 2017 for another two years. The Express Tribune reported that the court ceased to exist on Sunday as the government failed to get the support of the Opposition to extend their tenure.
The government wanted to give another extension of two years to the military courts.
In its effort to generate consensus on the issue, the government had planned a meeting of parliamentary heads of opposition parties on March 28. However, due to the prevailing tense political situation, the opposition parties boycotted the meeting which led to its cancellation.
While there is no official data available about the cases handled by the military courts, the National Assembly was informed in November last year that the military authorities were to decide 185 terrorism-related cases before the expiry of their term in March.
Defence Minister Pervez Khattak told the lower house at that time that a total of 478 cases were decided by these courts. He said a total of 284 convicts had been awarded death sentences.
In August 2015, the Supreme Court upheld the establishment of military courts to try terror suspects in a majority ruling but said the superior judiciary could still review any judgment passed by them.
In 2016, a larger bench of the Supreme Court also endorsed the trial of militants conducted by these courts.
(With inputs from PTI)