RAWALPINDI, Nov 28: A judge of the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court had an unusually large number of petitions against the army establishment fixed for hearing on Wednesday. He could hear only eight of them and put off the rest to some other time.
Petitioners and their counsel were surprised by the event. But the Inter-Service Public Relations department of the armed forces was not available for comments.
Brig (retired) Wasaf Khan Niazi, a former judge advocate general of the Pakistan army, told Dawn that an increasing number of aggrieved military persons had been turning to the civilian courts for justice.
Earlier hardly one or two such cases would land in civil courts as they normally refrained from entertaining military personnel in view of the constitution bar mentioned in Section 3 of Article 199, he said.
Most of the 25 petitions laid before Justice Ali Baqir Najafi on Wednesday related to service matters and decisions of Field General Court Martial (FGCM).
That included a plea by four army officers for the copy of court martial trial proceedings against them so that they could appeal against their conviction in the case in which Brigadier Ali Khan was sentenced for having links with the outlawed Hizbut Tahrir.
Major Sohail Akbar, Major Jawad Baseer, Major Inayat Aziz and Major Iftikhar were awarded prison terms of between 18 months to three years last August for their alleged association with Brig Ali.
Another petition put up before the court was from the 41 JCOs (junior commissioned officers) and other ranks of Sindh Regiment who were dismissed while posted at Quetta in April 2007 on administrative grounds.
Their counsel, Javed Akhtar Bhatti, said they were booked in 2006 on the suspicion of murdering a Naib Subedar Zafaryab Ali found dead in the unit. He said the special investigation branch had allegedly succeeded in persuading Sepoy Sajan to confess to the crime.
A court martial sentenced Sajan to two and half year imprisonment which the military court of appeal reduced to six months, the counsel said.
Later, military officials dismissed the 41 petitioners after they confessed, as asked, to crimes ranging from homosexuality to drinking to theft, the counsel claimed.
Neither the military conducted their court martial nor paid the sacked officers service benefits, pension or other privileges, added counsel Bhatti.
Brig (retired) Wasaf Niazi, the former JAG, observed that judicial activism has inspired aggrieved military officers and jawans to challenge adverse decisions of the military courts instead of going home.
A high court can set aside the order of a military court if it was proved that the military authorities violated the Pakistan Army Act in deciding the matter, he said.
Col (retired) Inamur Rahim, a counsel in one of the 25 cases pending in the Lahore High Court, told Dawn that it was hard to get justice from the courts in matters relating to the armed forces during military and dictatorial rules.
There were instances when orders of military courts challenged in the superior courts were kept pending for years, he said.
“Restoration of independent judiciary however has created an environment that has led to increased litigation against the military,” he said.