PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday set aside convictions of 74 persons convicted by the military court in terrorism charges including suicide attacks and killing law enforcement agencies, lawmaker and civilians.
A divisional bench of PHC comprising Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Lal Jan Khattak issued the short order after hearing three-day long detailed arguments in-camera.
There were a total of 74 appeals on cause list against the military court’s convictions and majority of them were of death sentences. In addition to it there were also cases of life imprisonment and sentence of up to 20 years jail.
According to the short order, “All the appeals against death sentences, life imprisonment and other sentences of 14 years to 20 years, against the decisions of military courts, are allowed. The reasons will be recorded in the detailed judgement.”
During the hearing, only the respective counsels of the convicts and law officers, who were defending the convictions and examining the record of the cases, were allowed inside the courtroom.
Lawyer including Muhammad Ijaz Sabi, Sahibzada Asadullah, Abdul Latif Afridi, Shabir Hussain Gigyani, Muhammad Arif Jan, Naveed Akhtar, Ghulam Nabi, Gohar Rehman Khattak and Ziaur Rehman Tajik argued the appeals in revision petitions on behalf of the convicts.
The lawyers raised several legal points against the decisions of the military courts.
“The convictions had been awarded on the bases of confessional statements by the military courts, which do not fulfill the legal requirements under the law,” lawyers argued.
It was said that “Courts have even acquitted convicts when the confessional statements are recorded after three or four days delay but in these cases, confessional statements were recorded after four or five years delay in the custody of the law enforcement agencies.”
The lawyers submitted that no fair chance of trial had been given to the convicts as guaranteed in Article 10 and 10-A of the Constitution.
Moreover, they alleged that the defence lawyer provided to the accused was the same in all cases and who is also inexperienced as “he did his LLB in 2015”.
Furthermore, they argued that retrospective effect has also not given in the 21st Amendment in the Pakistan Army Act, passed in January 8, 2015.
They pointed out that in almost all cases the convicts were charged in terrorism cases occurred in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and their trial without FIRs and retrospective effect in the Army Act for the trial was unlawful and without jurisdiction.
Presenting his case, Advocate Shabbir Hussain Gigyani, the counsel for Gul Faraz and Jannat Karim said “The judgement comes in the absence of any evidence except confessional statement, which was too recorded after lapse of years of arrest, unfair trial, and violation of articles 4, 10A, 12 and 25 of the constitution as well as violation of section 91 of Army act and absence of jurisdiction with military court.”
Faraz was convicted of preparation, facilitation and then helping in a suicide attack in a funeral in Mardan where MPA Imran Mohmand and dozens of others were martyred while 100 people got injured.
While Jannat Karim has been convicted of preparation, facilitation of suicide bombers in 2009, 2010 and then in 2011 for an attack on police convoy in Doaba, Hangu in which dozens of police officials were martyred. He was also accused of attacking an Imam Bargah in Parachinar. Karim’s sentence was also confirmed by the army chief earlier this month.
Gigyani prayed to the court that both of his clients have been given ‘unfair trial’ therefore the conviction awarded by military could be declared ‘void’.
Earlier, the PHC had suspended the convictions awarded by the military courts in these cases.
In majority of the cases, the chief of army staff had confirmed the death sentence of the convicts, however, the families of the convicts had challenged the order in the court and it had stayed their execution.
Izzat Khan, a resident of Swat, a death convict, as per the record allegedly charged for his involvement in the killing of innocent civilians and attacking armed forces of Pakistan as well as Malakand University, which resulted in the death of a civilian, four police officials and injuries to seven others.
The convict is also charged with involvement in the destruction of three different educational institutions.
Another death sentence convict, Muhammad Arish, as per the Inter-Services Public Relations was a member of a proscribed organisation. It was added that he was involved in attacking the Pearl Continental Hotel, Peshawar, which resulted in the death of four civilians.
Gigyani said that sentences were awarded by military courts and in view of short orders their convictions have been set aside. After delivery of the detailed judgments, he hoped that his client’s future trial will be held under Anti-Terrorism Act in the Anti-Terrorism Court.