PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Friday stayed the execution of a convicted militant and suspended the death sentence awarded to him by a military court on different counts of terrorism.

Justice Qaisar Rasheed and Justice Mohammad Ghazanfar Khan issued notice to the defence ministry directing it to produce the records of the case of the convict, Mohammad Yousaf, whose uncle, Mohammad Khan, challenged the conviction in the court.

The bench also ordered the clubbing of the petition with other petitions challenging the convictions by military courts and announced that the petitions would be heard by a bench headed by Chief Justice Yahya Afridi.

It stayed the execution of the convict until Feb 28 and adjourned hearing until then.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), media wing of Pakistan Army, had issued a press release on Dec 28 saying the chief of army staff had confirmed death sentences awarded to eight ‘hardcore terrorists’, including Mohammad Yousaf.

It had said the convict Mohammad Yousaf was a member of a proscribed organisation and that he was involved in attacks on the armed forces and law-enforcement agencies and thus, causing death of four soldiers, including slaughtering of Frontier Constabulary sepoy Raj Wali and injury to 19 others.

Sahibzada Asadullah Khan and Mohammad Irfan, lawyers for the petitioner, said their client was a farmer and lived in Kabal tehsil of Swat district.

They added that the petitioner was taken into custody over six years ago in Swat before he went missing and that recently, his family members learned that he was sentenced to death by a military court and could be executed anytime.

The lawyers said their client was innocent and was not provided opportunity of fair trial, including a lawyer of own choice.

On Feb 21, a two-member high court bench had taken up for hearing 33 petitions of identical nature against the convictions by military courts.

It had decided to conduct in-camera hearing into the petitions in light of the sensitivity of the matter.

Earlier, the high court dismissed several petitions of the same nature and the Supreme Court later upheld those dismissals. Currently, review petitions in several cases have been pending with the apex court.

Following the completion of its two-year constitutional period, the military courts trying terrorists using the name of religion or sects ceased to function.

According to the ISPR, the media wing of the Pakistan Army, the military courts had convicted 274 hardcore militants. Of them, 161 were sentenced to death and 113 were given prison terms, mostly life imprisonment.

However, the information didn’t say whether any of the accused facing court-martial was also acquitted.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2017