‘Amended Army Act proves Pakistan is under martial law’
LAHORE: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairwoman Asma Jahangir, who is under house arrest, has said the amendments to the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 are alarming and support the assertion that General Pervez Musharraf has not declared emergency, but imposed martial law.
In a press release issued on Sunday, she said the amendments made under the Army Act violated human rights and the Constitution. She said granting military courts the authority to try offences from murder to libel reflected the government’s lack of confidence in its selected Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) judges.
She said that in order to settle scores with lawyers, human rights activists and defiant journalists, the law was given effect from January 2003. “This also allows the government to legitimise its illegal acts of disappearances carried out by the intelligence agencies with impunity,” she added.
Commenting on the attorney general’s statement about the Army Act that similar laws also existed in the UK and US, she said, “Two wrongs can never make one right.” She said these countries had an independent judiciary which had also struck down provisions of the United States’ Patriot Act.
“The military courts in the UK or the US do not try their own citizens,” she said, adding that journalists, lawyers and activists in the UK or the US were not charged for terrorism or treason. She said judges of the superior courts were not kept under house arrest in both the UK and US.
In Pakistan, the police have filed reports accusing several lawyers and activists of terrorism, she added. She said there were at least three FIRs registered against her under the Terrorist Act.
She said the government’s onslaught on courts was not because they were obstructing trial of terrorists, but because they had dared to provide relief in some cases.
She said General Musharraf wanted absolute power and that he would not tolerate any dissent and would continue to use “the terrorist card” to keep the international community at bay.