PESHAWAR, Feb 3: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday put on notice the Judge Advocate General Branch of the Pakistan Army in a writ petition filed by a man convicted by a field general court martial of spying for the US.
A bench comprising Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Said Maroof Khan ordered that the petition filed by detainee Zahir Shah should be fixed for hearing in the third week of February.
The court ordered the federal government to file a comprehensive reply about the date and place of arrest of the detainee; place and duration of his detention; the date and duration of his trial under the Army Act; and whether right of defence and right of appeal against his conviction was given to him.
It ordered that the reply should be supported by relevant documents and in case the documents were privileged ones those would be perused in the chamber.
Deputy Attorney General Iqbal Khan Mohmand claimed that the detainee was convicted by a field general court martial under the Official Secrets Act and was sentenced to four years rigorous imprisonment.
He questioned the jurisdiction of the high court in hearing the case stating the Constitution barred courts from hearing cases pertaining to detention under the Army Act. He stated that there was incontrovertible evidence that the petitioner was spying for the US and providing them sensitive documents relating to the Pakistan Army.
The DAG alleged that the petitioner had received a huge amount from the US authorities in Afghanistan and initially he was paid $11,000.
Senior advocate Qazi Mohammad Jamil appeared for the petitioner and contended that his client was arrested along with his nephew by security personnel when they were travelling in a vehicle in April 2007 in the Hangu district.
He alleged that they were kept in illegal detention at an undisclosed location for many months, where they were severely tortured. Later, he said, the petitioner’s nephew was released, who informed the other family members about their ordeal.
He said the petitioner was later charged in what he called a concocted case under the Army Act by security officials.
The counsel contended that the petitioner was an ordinary labourer. He argued that they had challenged the ‘illegal’ detention of the petitioner through a habeas corpus petition and while the petition was pending the government came up with the information that he was detained under the Army Act.
The bench observed that due to international and other conspiracies the country had been turned into a battlefield and it was difficult for the forces now to differentiate between ordinary people and terrorists.
Mr Jamil contended that the petitioner had not been tried in a proper manner. He added that he could not be tried under the Army Act because he had not committed any offence relating to the army.
The bench enquired from him about the bar on its jurisdiction in hearing cases under the Army Act. Mr Jamil argued that the petitioner was a civilian and a case of ‘mistrial’ could be challenged in the high court. He added that injustice had been meted out to the petitioner because, according to him, during interrogation he had been found innocent but had still been charged in a ‘baseless’ case.