ISLAMABAD: Military courts have cleared their docket of all terrorism cases referred to them by the government for trial, sentencing 161 militants to death.

This was disclosed by a government official on Wednesday.

The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Swat’s spokesman Muslim Khan and four others involved in last year’s attack on a bus carrying members of the Ismaili community and the killing of civil society activist Sabeen Mehmood in Karachi were among eight convicts awarded the death penalty.

The sentences were endorsed by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday, an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said.

A total of 275 cases of terrorism had been referred to the military courts, set up in January last year, in the aftermath of the attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar, under the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015 commonly known as the 21st Constitution Amendment. The special legislation had a sunset clause by the virtue of which it would expire on Jan 7, 2017 and the military courts would cease to exist.

The military courts began trials in February 2015 and the first convictions were announced two months later. The trials were held in camera. Most of those tried were being held in internment centres set up under the Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulations, 2011 for holding suspects arrested during operations in the tribal areas.

The courts, during their two-year tenure, sentenced 161 militants to death, whereas another 116 were given jail terms, mostly life sentences. Only 12 convicts have been executed so far.

Several verdicts of the military courts have been challenged in superior courts.

The trials resulted in convictions and imprisonment and death sentences against militants belonging to Al Qaeda, the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Jamaatul Ahrar, Toheedwal Jihad Group, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harkatul Jehad-i-Islami, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi Al-Alami, Lashkar-i-Islami and Sipah-i-Sahaba.

The well-known cases in which sentences were handed down included the APS massacre, Safoora bus attack, killing of Sabeen Mehmood, attack on journalist Raza Rumi, Bannu jailbreak, Rawalpindi Parade Lane mosque bombing, killing of foreign tourists at Nanga Parbat base camp, attack on a bus carrying Shia pilgrims in Mastung, shooting down of an army helicopter in Orakzai Agency, attack on a PIA aircraft in Peshawar, Marriott Hotel bombing, Karachi airport attack, sectarian murders and attacks on law enforcement agencies’ personnel and offices, polio vaccination teams and educational institutions.

Last convictions

Four more militants were given death sentence for their involvement in the attack on the bus transporting Ismaili community’s members in May last year and killing of Sabeen Mehmood. They are: Hafiz Muhammad Umar alias Jawad, son of Afzal Ahmed; Ali Rehman alias Pano/Tona, son of Asifur Rehman; Abdul Salam alias Tayyab/Rizwan Azeem, son of Muhammad Nazarul Islam and Khurram Shafique alias Abdullah Mansoor/Abdullah Mansuri, son of Muhammad Shafiq. Five others belonging to Al Qaeda, including Saad Aziz, had earlier been sentenced to death in the same case.

Muslim Khan, son of Abdul Rasheed, who till his capture in September 2009 remained spokesman of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban’s Swat chapter, was awarded capital punishment for killing civilians, attacking the armed forces and law enforcement agencies, which resulted in the death of 31 people, and kidnapping two Chinese engineers.

Muhammad Yousaf, son of Khalid Khan; Saif Ullah, son of Naseeb Hussain; and Bilal Mehmood, son of Qari Mehmoodul Hassan, were also awarded death sentence.

Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2016