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Pakistan to alter constitution, form special terrorism court

January 2, 2015

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s leadership has decided to amend the constitution and the army act to form special courts for the trial of alleged terrorists, a minister said Friday.

Information minister Pervaiz Rasheed said that a marathon session headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and including the country’s entire civilian political and military leadership, produced a unanimous agreement to alter the constitution in order to form the alternative court system.

“The special court will try all the terrorists who have killed innocent civilians in the country’s street and bazars, schools and all around, and involved in killing security personnel and attacks on military installations, Rasheed told reporters following the meeting at the prime minister house.

He said the necessary amendment would be presented to the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, on Saturday and was likely to be discussed and approved Monday. He said the proposal, if approved as expected, would come before the Senate, the upper house, the following day.

Sharif, in a statement, praised the collective stance among the country’s leadership as “a demonstration of national unity and accord” and “a bright chapter of our political movement.”

Pakistan vowed to crack down on terrorism and make it easier to detain and prosecute suspected terrorists following a December Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar. The attack left 150 people, including 134 children, dead.

The proposed special courts were the most controversial of the 25 anti-terrorism measures proposed by Sharif late last month.

In Pakistan, shoddy police investigations and alleged intimidation of witnesses and judges have made it difficult to convict suspected terrorists.

The special courts, likely to be headed by military officials, are seen as a way to speed up a system where court cases can drag on for years with little resolution.

But critics say the new courts would also greatly strengthen the role of the military in a country where the army has already taken power in three coups and still wields enormous power behind the scenes.

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