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Court martial won’t affect SC jurisdiction

Updated March 27, 2014
— File photo
— File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that the court martial of two army officers for their alleged involvement in enforced disappearances in Balochistan would not take away its jurisdiction since the final appeal against the military court’s decision would still come to it.

“The Supreme Court still has the jurisdiction because the appeal against the final order will come to it,” Justice Amir Hani Muslim, head of a two-judge bench hearing a case pertaining to breakdown of law and order in Balochistan, said.

“It is just like a trial before an anti-terrorism court where the appeal ultimately reaches the Supreme Court,” he said.

The observation came when the chairman of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons, Nasrullah Baloch, conveyed apprehensions on behalf of the relatives of the missing persons that a military trial of the two army officers would be inaccessible to them.

The court had been informed on Tuesday that the government wanted two serving military officers who had returned to their units after serving in the Frontier Corps (FC) in Balochistan to be tried under the Pakistan Army Act of 1952 on charges of picking up Baloch people.

Balochistan Advocate General Nazimuddin said the provincial government had yet to formally convey to the federal government its decision regarding court martial of the officers, but it would be done soon.

The decision was to be taken after a meeting between the chief secretary of Balochistan and FC lawyer Irfan Qadir on how to proceed against the army officers.

Advocate Qadir said the meeting was yet to be held because the chief secretary was not available, but he had conveyed to him by phone the willingness of the provincial government for a trial of the officers under the army act.

He said the Balochistan government should expedite the matter of conveying the decision to the federal authorities.

Justice Muslim said that tentatively, all the serving army officers, even if involved in civil matters, should be tried under the army act because a military trial usually did not consume much time.

He said conviction or acquittal by the military court would not take away the right of appeal of the aggrieved parties at the final forum -- the Supreme Court.

The advocate general explained a meeting between the chief secretary and the FC counsel had been scheduled for March 24, but the official had been summoned by the prime minister and then he had to go abroad. He will return by April 1.

The court asked the chief secretary to hold the meeting immediately after returning to the country to find a viable solution to the Baloch missing persons issue.

When the case of missing Zakir Majeed was highlighted by Nasrullah Baloch, the court noted that although he had been dubbed as missing, the Balochistan High Court had declared him an absconder in cases registered in 2008.

MASS GRAVES: About the discovery of mass graves in Khuzdar where 13 decomposed bodies had been found, the Balochistan government told the court that 14 DNA samples from the bodies had been sent to the Punjab Forensic Science Agency for tests.

The cost of the tests is Rs505,000 and the finalisation of report will take four to five months. Two bodies have been handed over the families of the deceased, while burial of the rest is pending because of the DNA tests.

The court ordered Punjab Advocate General Mustafa Ramday to appear before it and explain why so much time was being consumed. The hearing was adjourned for two weeks.