ISLAMABAD: As the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the legality of military courts on Wednesday, the interior ministry finalised a list of 43 cases which would be tried by these special courts.

With the SC judgement made public, the restraining order against the execution of six terrorists sentenced by military courts in April have also expired. On April 16, the apex court had stayed the executions, while hearing the petitions challenging the legality of the special courts.

Sources at the interior ministry told Dawn that the committee constituted for the scrutiny of the cases had selected these 43 cases from 600 cases of terrorism, referred by apex committees in provinces and other territories.

The provincial apex committees send these cases to the interior ministry, for scrutiny by the committee which drafts a final list of cases to be tried by military courts.


Stay on sentences by special courts expires


The process has been put in place by the government to ensure that only the cases of ‘jet black terrorists’ are sent to the special courts.

According to sources, the Punjab government had sent 55 cases for review to the interior ministry, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) referred 423 cases, Sindh forwarded 46 while 54 cases had been sent to the committee for trail by military courts. The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) had recommended seven cases, while 12 cases had been forwarded by Gilgit Baltistan.

The eight member committee, comprising senior officials of the interior ministry, judge advocate general (JAG) branch of the army, advocate general Islamabad and officials of the law ministry, scrutinised the cases sent by the provinces.

The final list includes eight cases from Punjab, 20 from Balochistan, 10 from Sindh and five from Gilgit Baltistan.

The sources said that among the cases finalised from KP, were those of terrorists involved in the attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar, attacks on security forces, government buildings, state installations and the killing of civilians in the province.

From Punjab, the list of cases included the accused in the March 3, 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, alleged terrorists involved in the killing of 10 under-training wardens in Samanabad’s Shama Road in Lahore and in a sectarian clash in Rawalpindi’s Raja Bazaar on Jan 15, 2013.

The cases from Sindh included those of an accused in the attack on Justice Maqbool Baqir, those involved in the Karachi airport attack and sectarian killings.

It appears that no case of target killing or extortion has been forwarded by the interior ministry to the military courts.

Among the cases from Balochistan are those of accused in terrorist attacks on security forces, sectarian killings and cases related to the attacks on the Hazara community.

The cases from Gilgit-Baltistan included the murder of a judge of an anti terrorism court and the killing of nine mountaineers at Nanga Parbat base camp in the Diamer district.

According to the sources, seven cases from Islamabad are still under the scrutiny, these include an accused in the murder of FIA special public prosecutor Chaudhary Zulfiqar Ali and Shahbaz Bhatti.

According to an official who is privy to the committee’s functioning, the committee had short-listed cases of ‘jet black terrorists’ and dismissed cases related to other types of murders or other crimes which could be tried in the Anti Terrorism Court (ATA) or the sessions courts.

He also explained that the committee members understand the importance of not overburdening the special military courts as it would slow down the hearings, defeating the purported purpose of these courts i.e. speedy justice.

Another official told Dawn that with the SC judgment, the military was now under obligation to try the alleged terrorists quickly. He added that a brigadier level officer would conduct the trial proceedings and the convict may file an appeal with a military appellate court.

The appellate forum would be headed by an officer, not below the rank of a major general. If the conviction is upheld, the convict can file a mercy petition before the Chief of Army Staff, the sources added.

In February this year, a spokesperson for the army announced that 12 cases were being tried by the military courts including six from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, five from Punjab and one from Sindh.

On April 2, the army announced that the military courts had awarded the death penalty to six terrorists. The Supreme Court, on April 16, stayed the execution of these death sentences while it was hearing the petitions against the constitutional amendment which established the military led courts. However, this restraining order expired on Wednesday following the SC judgment being made public.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2015

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