Pakistan legislators approve military courts for terrorism

He also ended a six-year moratorium on the death penalty in terror cases, and several people have since gone to the gallows

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Pakistan's lower house of parliament Tuesday approved the establishment of military courts to hear terrorism-related cases, after a Taliban massacre at a military-run school in the northwest shocked the nation.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced the plan after militants gunned down 134 children and 16 adults at the Peshawar school last month.

He also ended a six-year moratorium on the death penalty in terror cases, and several people have since gone to the gallows.

Members of the main opposition joined the ruling party Tuesday to pass the measure, which now goes to the upper house.

"The bitter pill of this new law is being swallowed for the security of Pakistan," said Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, opposition leader in the lower house.

The measure was approved after 247 legislators -- more than a two-thirds majority -- voted to amend the constitution to allow for military courts to be set up.

Members of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazal group) abstained.

"We were not taken into confidence when the amendments were being made," JUI (F) chief Fazalur Rehman told reporters at parliament.

"The story of 9/11 is being repeated here," he said, referring to September 11, 2011 attacks on the United States.

"After 9/11 Muslims were being targeted and the same thing is being done in the name of constitutional amendment.

"Some forces are trying to initiate a war between religious and secular forces in the country," he said.

Members of the party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan were not present as their resignations are pending with the speaker. He alleges that last year's general election which brought Sharif back to power was rigged.

Apart from the religious parties, some moderate political parties and members of the intelligentsia have criticised the military courts plan.

The leading English-language newspaper Dawn termed it a "sad day" in an editorial Tuesday.

It accused political leaders of being unable to defend the country's constitutional and democratic roots or resist the "generals' demands".

"Yes, we need a coherent strategy to fight militancy and political and military leaders to work together. But military courts are not the answer," Dawn said.

In the country's largest city Karachi Tuesday, two paramilitary soldiers were killed and a passer-by injured during a raid on a hideout of Taliban militants.

Police said the raid followed an intelligence report that the insurgents were hiding in a house in the Khurramabad neighborhood of Landhi district.

"The militants opened fierce gunfire while the paramilitary troops were raiding the house, killing at least two soldiers," a senior police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Police officer Akhtar Farooq said seven people -- two women, two children, two men and the owner of the house -- were taken into custody for further investigation.

He said empty shells from 9mm pistols and Kalashnikovs and some improvised explosive devices were found in the house.

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