RAWALPINDI, Jan 23: Two Pakistan Army officers jailed by a military court for having links with the banned Hizbut Tahrir group may gain freedom if the Lahore High Court (LHC) rules that a law favours that.

“Prima facie the convicted officers are entitled for the benefit of Section 328 of the Criminal Procedure Code but it appears that the other side wanted to cancel the benefit,” observed one of the two judges of the Lahore High Court division bench hearing the petitions of Major Inayat Aziz and Major Iftikhar Ahmed on Wednesday.

The section permits the period spent by an accused in custody of the investigation team to be counted as part of the period of imprisonment awarded to a convict by any court of law.

The LHC bench, comprising Justice Mohammad Anwarul Haq and Justice Chaudhry Mohammad Younis, gave the military Judge Advocate General Branch a week to satisfy the court why the benefit should not be given to the petitioners and adjourned the matter till January 29 for the final verdict.

A field general court martial had sentenced the two petitioners to 18 month imprisonment in August 2012, along with Brigadier Ali Khan, Major Jawad Baseer and Major Sohail Akbar.

Their counsel Col Abdul Aziz Chandio informed the LHC bench that his clients were taken into custody by the military intelligence on June 1, 2011 and that the committal warrants the military authorities gave to the Adiala Jail administration mentioned that the convicts may be given benefit of the relevant sections of the CrPC.

While they have spent 20 months in prison so far, the counsel said the military authorities had been retracting from their earlier stance.

Interestingly, the standing counsel of the federal government, Sardar Maqbool, appeared in the court on his own and opposed the convicts’ release, arguing their 18 months sentence would end in 2014. He also objected why the petitioners did not make the federation a respondent.

Complaint of a bearded major Taking up another matter related to army, Justice Rauf Sheikh of the LHC issued notices to the secretary of defence, military secretary and adjutant general of the army’s General Headquarters for sacking a major for not trimming his beard.

Major (retired) Zaheeruddin through his counsel Col (retired) Inamur Rahim adopted before the court that he belongs to a traditional Muslim family and that his beard was within the limits of four fingers below the chin, laid down by the Army Instructions AR(I) 684.

His counsel termed it unfortunate that in May last year, the petitioner was told by his Brigade Commander and the General Officer Commanding (GOC) to trim it down. That the petitioner refused to do, triggering the wrath of his commanders.

They allegedly started victimising the bearded officer by canceling his family accommodation, but withdrew the vacation order, turning down his request for posting out from the jurisdiction of the Brigade Commander and sending him on compulsory retirement without giving any benefit in August 2012.

Aggrieved, ex-Major Zaheer sought remedy available to him under the service rules. He submitted three petitions seeking fair treatment but all were blocked by his immediate bosses, his counsel said.

The petitioner has requested the court to direct the military authorities to amend his retirement order enabling him to receive benefits for the 15 years service he rendered in the army.

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