As the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed concern at the denial of due process rights to Dr Shakil Afridi, legal experts from tribal and settled regions, along with human rights activists stepped in to challenge the Khyber Agency political administration’s verdict convicting him for treason and sentencing him to a 33-year imprisonment.
An HRCP statement on Friday said that while “one is concerned about the country’s security… that cannot be made on the basis of denying rule of law to anyone.” The commission noted that Afridi’s trial fell short of the due process standards on many counts, especially since he was denied legal assistance.
“Irrespective of the charge against him, there was no reason for trying Afridi in a tribal court, when the supposed offence took place in Abbottabad… Such treatment has given rise to perceptions that the only reason he was tried by a tribal court was to deprive him of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan,” the statement added.
The HRCP further called upon the government to ensure Afridi gets a fair trial and is given ample opportunity to defend himself.
At the same time, lawyers from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), accompanied by members of the Aman Tehreek (peace movement), submitted an application at the central prison in Peshawar seeking Dr Shakil Afridi’s approval for the power of attorney.
Aman Tehreek chief Idrees Kamal told The Express Tribune that the application had been submitted and the verdict by the political administration would be challenged in the office of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) commissioner as soon as they receive the signed power of attorney.
“Thousands of innocent Pashtuns have been killed,” said Idrees. “The world has been trying to reduce, in fact, eliminate terrorism and Shakil has helped the world.” He said a copy of the political administration’s order, inscribed with Dr Shakil’s sentence, had also been requested.
Qamar Nadeem Afridi, a member of the Fata Lawyers’ Forum (FLF) and a relative of Dr Shakil, when contacted, was also of the same view. He said that Dr Shakil had done something which the government and the whole world had been doing since long.
“Section 121 (waging war against the state) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), under which Dr Shakil has been sentenced is completely wrong,” said Qamar.
“Shakil has not waged war against the country nor has he conspired against it.”
FLF president Ejaz Mohmand said they were not favouring Dr Shakil, but were stressing upon following proper procedures.
“I don’t say Shakil has done something extraordinary and should be rewarded for it, but it is his right to appeal against the verdict. Thus we are preparing to submit our appeal before the commissioner FCR.”
Meanwhile, in her statement on Friday, former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Asma Jahangir terming Afridi’s punishment a violation of human rights, reiterated demands that he be given a fair trial and allowed to engage a counsel for his defence.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM NEWS DESK)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.
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