At FORUM-ASIA, we employ a range of strategies to effectively achieve our goals and create a lasting impact.

Through a diverse array of approaches, FORUM-ASIA is dedicated to achieving our objectives and leaving a lasting imprint on human rights advocacy.

Who we work with

Our interventions are meticulously crafted and ready to enact tangible change, addressing pressing issues and empowering communities.

Each statements, letters, and publications are meticulously tailored, poised to transform challenges into opportunities, and to empower communities towards sustainable progress.

Multimedia Stories

With a firm commitment to turning ideas into action, FORUM-ASIA strives to create lasting change that leaves a positive legacy for future generations.

Explore our dedicated sub-sites to witness firsthand how FORUM-ASIA turns ideas into action, striving to create a legacy of lasting positive change for future generations.

Subscribe our monthly e-newsletter

Rule of law abandoned in Pakistan

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

The amendment to the Army Act 1952 empowers the army to court-martial civilians and consolidates and continues army rule in the country. The imposition of martial law in Pakistan has resulted in arrests and harassment of human rights defenders including judges and lawyers, breaching the standards and norms of international human rights law.
(Bangkok, 23 November 2007) On 10 November 2007, Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum of Pakistan announced the amendment of the Army Act of 1952, thereby giving wide-ranging powers to the army to court-martial civilians. Under the amended act, the army can now try civilians on charges ranging from treason, sedition and attack on army personnel to “assaulting the president with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power” and “giving statements conducive to public mischief”. 

Before the recent amendment, the Army Act contained a provision that allowed court-martial of civilians but only when at least one of the accused belonged to the armed forces. The amendments empower intelligence agencies by allowing them make arbitrary detentions of civilians without charges and to keep them in custody for an indefinite period.

The amended Army Act gives sweeping power to the military courts to try numerous offences punishable under various legislation, including the Prevention of Anti-national Activities Act (1974) and the Anti-Terrorism Act (1997), as well as the attempt to commit any of the said offences. Some new clauses and offences of the Pakistan Penal Code have been added to the existing Army Act to provide legal cover to law enforcement agencies, allowing them to arrest arbitrarily and prosecute alleged terrorists without an arrest warrant. Civilians arrested by the army for committing or attempting to commit any offence against the Armed Forces of Pakistan, defense or security of Pakistan or any part thereof can now be tried before military courts. .

This move by the government clearly shows the increasing repression of human rights defenders under the state of emergency in Pakistan. Hundreds of human rights defenders including judges, lawyers and journalists have been arrested after the issuance of the said decree. The police have filed reports accusing several lawyers and activists of terrorism. UN human rights expert, Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, was placed under house arrest. Another UN human rights expert, Hina Jilani, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, who is presently outside Pakistan, will be arrested if she returns to Pakistan under an arrest warrant that has been already issued.

The amendment takes retroactive effect from 1 January 2003, meaning that civilians that are being tried by civil courts can now be transferred to military courts if the case was registered against them on or after 1 January 2003.

On promulgating the ordinance, President Pervez Musharraf said that an ordinance empowering military courts to try civilians was meant to strengthen the government in the fight against terrorism and was not aimed at silencing critics. The amendment is said to address the inability of the existing anti-terrorism courts to hold proper or speedy trials of the people involved in acts of terrorism or fanning religious or other brands of armed militancy in the country..  This logic does not justify trial of civilians in the military courts.