KARACHI: The federal government informed the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday that all the legal formalities had been fulfilled while transferring the Safoora carnage trial to the military court under the 21st constitutional amendment, which allows such transfers of the terrorism-related cases.
A section officer of the federal interior ministry stated this in a report submitted to the SHC bench, which was hearing a petition challenging the shifting of the Safoora killings trial from the anti-terrorism court to the military court.
Unknown gunmen had shot dead 45 members of the Ismaili community on the outskirts of Karachi on May 13, 2015. Eight suspected militants, inspired by the Islamic State, are set to face trial before the military court set-up under the National Action Plan to counter terrorism. One of them, Sajid Naeem, had challenged the shifting of the trial proceedings from the anti-terrorism court to the military court, arguing that crucial legal formalities were not fulfilled during the process.
In its report, the interior ministry argued that, as per the procedure all cases, whether fresh or under trial, are placed before the provincial apex committee. After due deliberation, the apex committee finalises its recommendations, which are forwarded to the interior ministry by the respective provincial home department. Thereafter, the designated interior ministry committee deliberates upon the cases and makes recommendations.
The secretary maintained that Sajid’s case was transferred to the military court as per the aforementioned procedure, which is strictly followed for sanction of trial in fresh cases or under-trial cases to the courts set-up under the Pakistan Army Act, 1952. The interior secretary pleaded the court dismiss the petition.
Sindh government’s view
The Sindh government’s representatives argued that the legal procedure regarding shifting of the cases to the military courts is very much defined and takes legality from the 21st constitutional amendment. Terrorism cases are considered at the highest level of the apex committee, which makes decisions regarding the shifting of terrorism cases to the military courts.
The legal committee, comprising the provincial home and law secretaries, the prosecutor-general, counter-terrorism department AIG, provincial Rangers director-general, legal AIG and the representatives of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau deliberate in detail, keeping in view all the legal requirements. The committee then decides whether to send cases to the interior ministry, on which the legal team of the ministry and the Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) further deliberate. Recommendations are then forwarded to the SHC chief justice.
They said the legal committee of the apex committee deliberates upon the legal aspects of the cases, adding that after its approval the interior ministry is approached. The representatives further contended that after the interior ministry approved transferring the Safoora carnage case to the military court on September 18, 2015 the matter was submitted to the SHC chief justice, who, on December 28, 2015, endorsed the same and ordered the anti-terrorism court to shift the cases to the military courts.
The provincial government representatives maintained that in the trial relating to the Safoora Goth killings, all the legal and constitutional formalities have been followed in letter and spirit.
They claimed that the 21st amendment has overriding effect on all laws, adding that the cases transferred under this amendment to the military courts cannot be challenged. The representatives pleaded the court dismiss the petition.
A division bench, headed by Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, took both the federal and provincial governments comments on record. The hearing was adjourned till Thursday to hear arguments from the prosecutor-general and others.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2016.