After a lapse of 15 years, the Supreme Court has once again taken up a high-profile case which may now involve the president and chief of army staff.
A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has issued a notice to the legal heirs of the late Maj-Gen (retd) Zaheerul Islam Abbasi (who had previously filed an appeal against his court martial) and other parties concerned in the case.
The review petition was filed by three officials – Maj Gen (retd) Abbasi, Brig Mustansur Billah and Col Azad Minhas – against their court martial by the Pakistan Army. Abbasi, Billah, two colonels and 38 other military officers were arrested on Sept 26, 1995 on charges of plotting to assassinate corps commanders during a meeting to be held on Sept 30 at the GHQ.
They had also allegedly plotted to proclaim caliphate with Abbasi as Amirul Momeneen (Leader of the Faithful) after assassinating then prime minister Benazir Bhutto and then army chief Gen Abdul Waheed Kakkar, as well as senior cabinet ministers and senior military officers.
The Supreme Court had rejected Abbasi’s appeal filed in 1997 against the seven-year jail term awarded to him by the Field General Court Marshal (FGCM). The court had observed that the matter was outside the purview of civilian courts.
During Monday’s hearing, Maj-Gen (retd) Abbasi’s counsel Habib Wahabul Khairi told the court that his client had been accused of attempting to overthrow the government, which had prompted the army to court martial him.
Over the years, Abbasi’s assets were also confiscated, which was a violation of army regulations, the counsel argued. He requested on behalf of Abbasi’s widow that the court order his assets be returned.
After hearing the counsel’s arguments, the court issued a notice to the parties concerned. In the petition, the respondents included the president and the chief of army staff – referred to merely by their designation and not by their names.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2012.