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Peshawar High Court sets aside sentences of 74 convicted by military court

Updated October 18, 2018

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A file photo showing the Peshawar High Court's building.
A file photo showing the Peshawar High Court's building.

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday set aside the punishments awarded to 74 convicts by military courts in various cases of terrorism.

Accepting their appeals against the military courts' verdicts, a two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Lal Jan Khattak overturned the death and life sentences that were handed to the convicts.

The court overturned their sentences after concluding that the charges against the accused had not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Though a short order, the bench ordered that the convicts be released. Nearly 50 of them had been sentenced to death, while the rest were serving jail terms.

The cases of three out of the 74 convicts whose sentences were overturned today are highlighted below:

Gul Faraz

Convict Gul Faraz of Dir was charged with the preparation, facilitation and transportation of a suicide bomber to a funeral site in Mardan where he blew himself up, killing dozens of people, including MPA Imran Mohmand, and leaving scores injured.

He was sentenced to death by a military court, a verdict that was challenged in the high court by his nephew Zrawar Khan under Article 199 of the Constitution, under which a high court may take up a matter when there is no other adequate remedy provided by law.

While allowing the writ petition, the two-member PHC bench overturned the death sentence and ordered Faraz's release.

He was acquitted on the grounds of: absence of substantial evidence, except for a confessional statement that was recorded after a lapse of years following the convict's arrest; the trial being unfair; violation of Articles 4, 10-A, 12 and 25 of the Constitution as well as of Section 91 of the Pakistan Army Act; and the absence of jurisdiction with the military court.

Burhanuddin

Burhanuddin, 31, was sentenced to death by a military court also for his alleged involvement in the attack on the funeral in Mardan in June 2013.

His father Umer Daraz Khan had challenged the judgement in PHC through his lawyer Ziaur Rehman Tajik.

Burhanuddin's family had claimed that he was mentally unfit and had been undergoing treatment before and throughout the duration of his custody.

Jannat Karim

Convict Jannat Karim of Hangu was sentenced to death by a military court in a terrorism case. His conviction was challenged in the PHC by his nephew Ehsanullah under Article 199.

Karim was charged with the preparation, facilitation and transportation of suicide bombers in 2009, 2010 and then in 2011, when an attack on a police convoy in Hangu left dozens of police officials martyred.

While allowing the writ petition, the PHC bench today overturned the death sentence and ordered Karim's release.

He was acquitted on the grounds of: absence of substantial evidence, except for a confessional statement that was recorded after a lapse of years following the convict's arrest; the trial being unfair; violation of Articles 4, 10-A, 12 and 25 of the Constitution as well as of Section 91 of the Pakistan Army Act; and the absence of jurisdiction with the military court.

Both Karim and Faraz were represented before the court by lawyer Shabir Hussain Gigyani.

Military courts

Military courts were disbanded on January 7, 2017, after the expiration of a sunset clause included in the legal provisions under which the tribunals were established.

However, on March 31, 2017 then president Mamnoon Hussain gave his formal assent to the Pakistan Army Act 2017 and the 23rd Constitutional Amendment Bill ─ the two pieces of legislation aimed at granting legal cover to military courts ─ after they were cleared by the parliament.

The courts were subsequently revived for two years and given legal cover from the day of their disbandment.