ISLAMABAD: Military courts would begin trial in 12 terrorism cases from next week, the army announced on Saturday.

Military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa in a twitter posting said: “To begin with 12 cases (have been) assig­ned to military courts. Legal process kicks off.”

The announcement came a day after Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for getting a go-ahead for the start of trial of terrorism accused by military courts.

The interior ministry had forwarded 39 cases to the army for trial by the military courts, out of which 12 have been assigned to the courts for hearing.

The military neither named the cases that were to be heard in the first phase nor clarified the procedure that would be adopted for the trial of the accused.

However, an interior ministry source revealed that most of the cases being taken up at this stage were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which had been hit hardest by terrorism.

Another source revealed that cases from Punjab and those related to sectarian killings were not among the 12 placed before the newly instituted military tribunals. The claim could not be verified independently. 

A military source said the accused would be free to hire their counsel.

Lawyer retd Col Inamur Rahim said it was still unclear whether the military courts would adopt some special procedure or follow the Army Act.

Under the Army Act the accused is given a charge sheet and summary of evidence 24 hours before the commencement of the trial.

Mr Rahim said that since articles 10 and 10-A of the Constitution held the field these provisions guaranteed freedom to choose counsel and fair trial.

The military courts were agreed upon by the political leadership under the National Action Plan against terrorism adopted in Dece­mber after the Peshawar school tragedy in which 150 students and staff lost their lives.

The parliament later amended the Constitution and the Army Act to pave the way for the establishment of military courts for a period of two years.

The army has set up nine courts — three each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab; while Sindh and Balochistan have two and one, respectively.

Gen Bajwa said that provincial apex commi­ttees, comprising the civilian and military leadership of the four provinces, had selected the terrorism cases and forwarded them to the interior ministry, which vetted them before handing them over to the army.

The military courts open trial in terrorism cases as the Supreme Court from Feb 12 resumes hearing in a petition filed by the Lahore High Court Bar Association challenging their creation.

The Supreme Court had at the last hearing issued notices to federal and provincial governments and their law officers.

Published in Dawn February 8th , 2015

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