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April 12, 2019

PHC questions legal status of interment centres, fate of detainees

Peshawar

April 12, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has sought replies from the federal and provincial governments directing them to explain what would be the status of Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011 after the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Musarrat Hilali questioned the legal status of internment centres and hundreds of inmates kept there on terrorism charges arrested under the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011, by the law enforcement agencies, which has been abolished after the merger of the Fata into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The court sought legal assistance from the advocate general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Attorney General of Pakistan in over 60 cases filed by family members of the detainees, seeking the release of the detainees after spending several years in the custody without any conviction or trial under the regulation, which did not exist in the field.

The court fixed April 23 for the next hearing into the case. They were directed to assist the court about the fate of the detainees in internment centres and under what law they were being kept in the internment centres after the abolition of the regulation.

In one of the cases, Azra Suleman, counsel for detainee, Muhammad Tayyab, resident of Mohmand district, submitted before the bench that first the security agencies picked up the detainee from his house on September 8, 2014, and then shifted him to internment centre in 2015 under the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011. She submitted that the detainee was kept for three years at the internment centre without any trial, which is also against section 18 of the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011. The woman requested the court to issue his release order as after the 25th Amendment to the Constitution the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011 stands abolished and the inmates are in illegal custody of the law enforcement agencies. Sources said that the government was going to bring a new law to regulate the internment centres through an order or new legislation. Those detained at the internment centres had been picked up under the regulation for their alleged involvement in terrorism-related crimes.

Promulgated on June 27, 2011, the regulation is applicable to the provincially administered tribal areas and erstwhile Fata. The law allows authorities to exercise it with retrospective effect from February 1, 2008. Currently, he said, hundreds of terror suspects were languishing at the internment centres, as they had been declared “Black” by the Joint Investigation Team. The PHC had recently decided the fate of the pending appeals under the FCR and Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011. It directed that appeals against four years or less conviction would be filed before the sessions judges’ courts, recently established in the newly merged districts and appeals against more than four years conviction would be filed in the PHC. Similarly, the PHC declared that the pending civil suits under the FCR would be transferred to the senior civil judges’ courts established in the newly merged districts and the review petitions pending in the Fata Tribunal would be transferred to the PHC for hearings.

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