Articles by Amir Mir

JUI, JI sided with dictators, but oppose military courts

ISLAMABAD: The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F)’s opposition to the setting up of the military courts to hold speedy trials of terrorists is surprising given the fact that both the religio-political parties had always sided with the military dictators in the past, especially with General Pervez Musharraf.

As the lower and the upper houses of the parliament passed the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill and The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2015 to set up constitutionally protected military courts to try civilian terrorism suspects, the JUI led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the JI led by Sirajul Haq decided not to be a part of the national consensus against the al-Qaeda and Taliban sponsored terrorism. Both the Jamaat and the Jamiat abstained from voting in favour of the 21st amendment despite the fact that the two parties had voted in favour of the infamous Legal Framework Order (LFO) 2002 which was issued by the then President cum Army Chief, General Pervez Musharraf.

While the PPP and the PML-N had opposed the LFO because it was meant to give legal cover to Musharraf’s illegal acts ever since his 1999 military takeover, the JUI and the JI (which were the key components of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal or MMA) supported it after striking a deal with the military dictator. As the LFO was overruled by the Supreme Court, ruling that the amendments made through the LFO would have to be ratified by Parliament in the manner provided in the un-amended 1973 Constitution – the amendments would have to be approved by two-thirds of both houses of the bicameral body – the JUI, the JI and several other component parties of the MMA once again came to Musharraf’s rescue.

Although General Musharraf’s supporters had a majority in the Parliament at that time, they did not have the required two-thirds supermajority to ratify the Legal Framework Order. Parliament was effectively deadlocked by strident opposition from the PPP, the PML-N and other opposition parties for over a year. Finally, in December 2003, the General successfully persuaded Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Maulana Fazlur Rehman to vote for the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution. With this amendment, parts of the Legal Framework Order were incorporated into the Constitution, which was a major relief for the dictator of the day.

The 17th amendment had several politico-legal implications. The amendment, vide Article 270-AA, validated the proclamation of emergency on October 14, 1999 by Pervez Musharraf, all orders and laws he made as chief executive, and amendments to the constitution under the Legal framework Order. The amendment brought Article 270-AA in conflict with several other constitutional provisions particularly Articles 6 which stipulated that those trying to abrogate or subvert the Constitution would be tried on charges of high treason. The General, with the backing of the Mullahs, also vested in him the power to dissolve the National Assembly in his discretion. By putting their stamp on all the Musharraf-made amendments, the parliamentarians belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam not only belittled themselves but weakened the parliament.

By passing the 17th amendment, the MMA actually backpedalled on its stance on the LFO and the supremacy of the parliament. Until it made a pact with Musharraf’s King’s party, the MMA component parties had all along been denouncing the LFO as simply unconstitutional and vowing to safeguard parliamentary democracy. But seen in the context of the track record of the religious parties, the MMA’s U-turn was not at all surprising, as is the case with the JI and the JUI’s most recent stance on the setting up of the military courts. Both the parties had been siding with the other mainstream parties [during the recently held All Parties conference] for speedy trial of terrorists. However, when the time came to teach a lesson to terrorists the religious decided to side with the forces of extremism.

The latest stance of the ameers of the two major religio-political parties fully fits with their militant-friendly and pro-Taliban profiles which they want to maintain even at this crucial juncture despite the grave threat the Taliban currently pose to the Pakistani state and the society. Incidentally, the Tehrik-e-Taliban had named [in February 2013] Nawaz Sharif, Fazlur Rehman and Munawwar Hassan to act as guarantors for holding peace talks with the government. While Nawaz Sharif seems to have learnt his lesson and decided to act against the Taliban mafia with full might, Maulana Fazl and Sirajul Haq continue to show a soft corner for the extremist elements.

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