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January 28, 2015

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Police have pivotal role to play in military courts

Police have pivotal role to play in military courts
ISLAMABAD: The police will be the investigating agency in terror cases to be tried by the military courts and measures have also been taken to pre-empt the misuse of the new arrangement for political victimisation, officials privy to the latest procedure say.
“Only the court has changed,” summarised a well-placed police official dismissing different speculations doing the rounds since the announcement of the plan to set up the military courts.
Three types of cases will be referred to the military courts: Hardcore terrorism, extortion and kidnapping for ransom. Also, the fact remains that the transfer of cases from the anti-terrorism courts to military courts will not be the sole discretion of the interior ministry.
This referral rather stands scrutiny at multiple levels with the interior ministry the last decision-making authority, not the first.The ministry can only transfer cases referred and approved by the provinces, according to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) finalised in consultation with the provinces. Here again, the police assume a pre-eminent role, as the provincial police chief will be the first decision-making authority in this regard.
A committee, headed by Inspector General of Police and represented by AIG (Investigations) and AIG (Operations), will look into the cases pending with the anti-terrorism courts. The committee will decide the cases in consultation with the police’s legal department.
Once approved by the police, cases will be referred to the provincial home department to seek the opinion of the prosecution department and then they will be forwarded to the interior ministry.
The ministry can write to a province about a case it considers fit for trial in the military court, but the decision will only be made by the provincial police and home department. Although, the formation of military courts has encroached upon the jurisdiction of the judiciary yet the police preserve their role as the trial of terror suspect will be conducted on the basis of challan submitted to the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Branch.
Whenever individuals are arrested in any province in terrorism cases, investigation is either conducted by the police alone or by a joint interrogation team that also includes the representatives of intelligence agencies like the Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau. The police will submit the challan to the JAG Branch for prosecution in the military court.
A police official dealing with the anti-terrorism courts say military courts were inevitable in the current security environment wherein the state has failed to provide security to judges hearing cases of high-profile terrorists.
Quoting an incident, he said in a case an accused started threatening the anti-terrorism court judge on the jail premises during the hearing. “At one point, the accused tried to jump at the judge,” he said.
Mumtaz Qadri’s case is not old either. The judge who handed him the death sentence faced an awkward position when lawyers supported Qadri. The judge had to leave the courtroom from the backdoor. He later left the country and has not returned yet due to security threats.
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