ISLAMABAD: The military courts, which were empowered to try civilian suspects of terrorism, convicted a number of ‘missing persons’ as well.
The 21st amendment, which enabled the military courts to proceed against civilian suspects of terrorism added in the schedule of Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952, lapsed on Jan 7.
During their two-year tenure, the courts sentenced 161 militants to death and handed down jail terms, mostly life sentences, on 116 others. Several of the military court verdicts have been challenged in the superior courts.
A majority of the suspects tried by the military courts were ‘hardcore terrorists’ and detained at the internment centres, an official privy to the military courts told Dawn.
He said at least 150 suspects, who were later found guilty by the military courts, were detained at internment centres.
A good number of missing persons, whose cases were being heard by the Inquiry Commission on Enforced Disappearances, were also found at the internment centres.
Though the exact number of ‘missing persons’ convicted by the military courts is not known, Dawn identified five cases of missing persons who faced the court martial and were convicted.
Ubaidullah was found guilty by the military courts of being involved in the attack on Bannu jail.
Nearly 400 prisoners, including militants, escaped after over 150 heavily-armed militants stormed the prison in April 2012.
According to his application filed with the inquiry commission, Ubaidullah, a resident of Darya Khan in the district of Bhakkar, was a labourer. He went missing on Jan 8, 2012.
While his case was pending before the commission, Ubaidullah’s relatives learnt through the media that a military court had convicted him in March 2016.
Another ‘missing person’, Mohammad Ghauri, a student of International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), was accused of masterminding the Dec 2009 attack on a Friday prayers congregation at the Parade Lane mosque in Rawalpindi, which claimed at least 37 lives. His death sentence was confirmed on Jan 1, 2016, by the then army chief.
According to the petition filed against his conviction with the Lahore High Court, Ghauri went missing from Sector F-10 in Islamabad on Jan 7, 2010.
Javed Iqbal Ghauri, the father of the accused and a former deputy director general of the Press Information Department (PID), had approached the Shalimar police for the registration of an FIR over his son’s disappearance but to no avail.
Jamshed Raza alias Chacha was convicted by the military court in September 2015 for killing two soldiers.
Raza, who was also an accused in the 2003 terrorist attack on the then president Pervez Musharraf near Civil Lines, went missing from the Bahawalpur central jail in 2012.
However, according to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) regarding his conviction, Raza “was an active member of Harkatul Jihad-i-Islami and found involved in attacking armed forces of Pakistan, including killing two soldiers, possessing firearms and explosives. He admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on three charges and awarded the sentence of imprisonment for life.”
Two other missing persons - Ali Rehman and Fazal Ali - were given the death sentence in November 2016. As per the ISPR, they were active members of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. “They were involved in attacking law enforcement agencies and armed forces of Pakistan which resulted in the death of Havaldar Munir Ahmed and Sepoy Sajid Khan and injuries to several other soldiers. They were also found in the possession of firearms and explosives.”
Both Rehman and Ali were the residents of Swat. According to their applications filed with the inquiry commission, Rehman went missing from Kanju, Swat, on August 29, 2009, while Fazal was allegedly abducted by unknown people on September 9, 2009.
In May 2009, the military launched Operation Rah-i-Rast to clear Swat of terrorists.
Both of the convicts went missing after the military concluded the Swat operation.
According to documents of the Defence of Human Rights (DHR), these cases of military court convicts were taken up by the inquiry commission.
When Dawn contacted, Fareed Khan, the secretary to the inquiry commission, said he was not aware of such convictions. He, however, said as soon as the military authorities informed them about the presence of a missing person in an internment centre, the commission disposed of the application forthwith.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2017