Pakistan’s law minister defends putting protesters on trial in military courts

Pakistan’s law and justice minister is defending the decision to use military courts to try civilians involved in violent protests supporting the former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Key actions: The military fired three senior officers for failing to prevent violent attacks on their property by Khan’s supporters.
* The protests occurred after Khan was arrested on graft charges in May. He was later released but still faces multiple charges.
* In response to the protests, the government decided to employ the anti-terrorism law and military courts to try civilian protestors.

Defending the move: Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar argues that the decision to use military courts is “fully compliant with international guarantees for free trial”.
* He stated that the accused can “engage counsel of their choice”, and insists these were not political protests.
* Tarar claimed the protests reached a level of violence that constituted acts of terrorism.

Criticism and concerns: Many human rights organizations argue that the anti-terrorism law is often misused to prosecute civilians.
* Amnesty International has raised concerns about potential human rights violations resulting from trying civilians in military courts.
* According to a 2014 report, 10% of death row inmates were tried as terrorists, indicating a potential overuse of the anti-terrorism law.

International reactions and the way forward: The U.S. State Department continues to urge Pakistani authorities to uphold democratic principles and the rule of law.
* Meanwhile, investigations into the former Prime Minister, who himself faces over 100 criminal charges, are still ongoing.
* The nation also grapples with persistent political and economic turmoil, recently approving a new budget to meet the requirements of the International Monetary Fund for new bailout funds.

View original article on NPR

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