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Peshawar

January 8, 2017

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Cases to be shifted to ATCs as military courts expire

Cases to be shifted to ATCs as military courts expire

PESHAWAR: The cases being heard in military courts related to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata would be shifted to the anti-terrorism courts, legal experts said.

The military courts expired on Saturday after completing the scheduled two years without getting an extension.

Dozens of appeals are still pending against the death sentences pending in the high courts, including the Peshawar High Court as the courts had suspended the death sentences awarded by the military courts and sought record in the cases.

Legal experts, hired in the review petitions filed in the PHC by family members of the convicts against the military courts’ decisions, told The News that the cases pending in military courts and other related to terrorism would now be shifted to anti-terrorism courts for trial.

However, they pointed out that everyone was raising questions whether the military courts conducted fair trials. They felt this was the reason the high courts had suspended some of the death sentences awarded by the military courts.

They said there would henceforth be no question whether fair trial was allowed to the accused as the suspected terrorists would have full chance to defend themselves and have a chance to challenge the court decision in superior courts.

Muhammad Arif Jan, who has been dealing with the cases challenging the military courts’ decisions in PHC, told The News that the federal government had in the past also formed special courts for trial of suspected terrorists under the Protection of Pakistan Act, but the government did not extend the life of these courts on expiry of the mentioned period.

He said the government should increase the security of the anti-terrorism courts and the judges. “If this isn’t possible, then the anti-terrorism courts could hold trials at the internment centres,” he argued.

Muhammad Shabbir Gigyani, who has been dealing with the suspected militants’ cases in anti-terrorism courts, said that nobody knows if fair trial was conducted in the military courts because no Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was followed to examine witnesses. “This is the reason the convicts in their appeals questioned the right of fair trial under Article 10-A of the Constitution,” he pointed out.

Due to security concerns, the anti-terrorism courts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had tried the Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-i-Mohammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad and other accused in the prisons where they were being held.

The life of the military courts expired on Saturday. The courts were established after the passage of Constitution (Twenty-first Amendment) Act, 2015 for trying suspected terrorists attached with militant outfits and using the name of religion or sect. The said Act was published in the official Gazette on January 8, 2015.

Under Section 1 (3) of the Act, the provisions of this Act should remain in force for two years from the date of its commencement.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the army’s media wing, said in its recent statement that the military courts convicted 274 hardcore militants, including 161 sentenced to death and 113 others awarded prison terms, mostly life imprisonment.

However, only 12 of them have been executed as cases of several convicts are pending before the Supreme Court and high courts.

Four of these convicts including Hazrat Ali, Mujeebur Rehman, Sabeel and Maulvi Abdul Salam, were hanged to death on December 2, 2015. Subsequently, Noor Saeed, Murad Khan, Inayatullah and Israruddin were also executed on December 29, 2015.

The Constitution (Twenty-First Amendment) Act was enacted by the Parliament after the carnage at the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014 in which 147 persons, including 132 schoolchildren, were killed. The Parliament had also amended the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 allowing creation of military courts for trying terrorists using the name of religion.

The Supreme Court on August 29, 2016 dismissed appeals of 16 militants convicted by the military courts. The review petitions of these petitioners are now pending before the apex court.

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