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The Twelfth Amendment.

The Twelfth Amendment

The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution has been passed. According to the eminent jurists, the changes introduced could close the doors to justice in certain cases. What was the hurry to get the bill passed. The bill was adopted in about half an hour as all the rules were suspended and there was no discussion despite the oppositions vehement protests (including token walkout) during the first and second readings. Two days later, the amendment was similarly rushed through the Senate. Why such an insane rush. Has it not made the existence of a National Assembly irrelevant and its legislative functions a farce.

The 12th Amendment raises the salaries and pensions of the Supreme Court and High Court judges by adjusting the dearness allowances now available. No one would object to it but what is objectionable is that henceforce the power to fix the salaries and allowances of the superior judiciary will vest with the President this giving him one more important prerogative.

The Government had its way by 154 votes to 26. The PDA, the PNP and the PKMAP members voted against the move. They were joined by Mr. Khar while Mr. Zahid Sarfaraz abstained and the IJI's Mr. Sakhi Jan was locked out. The JUI was split, four of its members going with the Government and two against it. The MQM, the ANP and the Jamaat Islami stood firmly by the Government.

The amendment as adopted can be divided into two parts. The first part inserts Article 212-B in the Constitution, (Incidentally, the Constitution does not have any Article 212-A now as the one bearing that number, which dealth with the establishment of military courts and tribunals and had been added by Gen. Zia in 1979, was omitted by P.O. No. 14 of 1985).

The new Article empowers the Federal Government to set up Special Courts for the trial of heinous offenses which will be defined in the law creating these Courts. The Government will also able to set up Special Appellate Courts to her appeals against judgments of the Special Courts. The trial and the hearing of the appeal shall be completed within 30 days each.

A Special Court will be presided over by a sitting or retired Judge of a High Court or a persons qualified to be appointed a High Court Judge. A Special Appellate Court will be headed by a Judge of the supreme Court and will include two judges of the High Courts. All appointments will be made by the Federal Government after consultation with the Chief Justice concerned. No court shall have any jurisdiction in relation to proceedings before the Special Courts or their verdicts except as provided by the law setting up these Courts.

This part of the amendment will be valid for three years from the date of enforcement. The second part of the amendment, which will not lapse after three years, raises the salary of the Chief Justice of Pakistan from Rs. 7,900 to Rs. 9,900 per mensem. The salary of a Chief Justice of a High Court from Rs. 7,200 to Rs. 9,400 per mensem, and the salary of a High Court Judge from Rs. 6,500 to Rs. 8,400 per mensem.

Mr. Nawaz Sharif had originally wanted powers to act, not just against terrorism, but for "any other cause." He had also wanted authority to suspend any provision in the constitution. The new amendment that he did get, to remain on the statute books for three years, empowers the federal government to establish "special speedy courts for heinous crimes" in an area where, in the government's opinion, law and order are threatened. Such courts will deliver judgements within 30 days and there will be only one court of appeal, another "special" appellate court headed by three senior judges. Police men can arrest or detain at will anyone in "an affected area".

But it is not clear how these draconian new laws will combat terrorism when the existing special courts, armed with powers to order public hangings, have failed. The suspicion is that the prime minister is instead trying to throttle dissent. The government has already rounded up more than 1,000 alleged terrorists in one district of Sindh (they are mostly workers of Benazir Bhutto's party). Yet, beset by ethnic strife, gang murders and kidnapping, the province remains ungovernable.
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Title Annotation:amendment to the Pakistani constitution
Author:Haidari, Iqbal
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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