KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday directed the lawyer for appellants and a deputy attorney general to advance their arguments at the next hearing over maintainability of the appeals filed by the convicts in the Safoora Goth bus carnage and murder of prominent social activist Sabeen Mahmud cases.
The five convicts — Tahir Minhas, Saad Aziz, Asadur Rehman, Mohammad Azhar Ishrat and Hafiz Nasir Ahmed — through their counsel, filed as many identical appeals challenging their death sentence handed down by a military court.
When the appeals came up for hearing before a two-judge bench headed by Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto, the parents of the appellants informed the court that their lawyer was busy at the Supreme Court in Islamabad.
They contended that the counsel for the appellants had received the notice just on Sunday evening.
Five men have been sentenced to death by a military court in the two cases
A deputy attorney general argued that the appeals were not maintainable and were liable to be dismissed since the pleas of the convicts against the trial court order had already been dismissed by the relevant appellant forum.
However, the father of one of the convicts said that they had yet to receive a copy of the judgement handed down by the military court.
The bench came down hard on the deputy attorney general when he said that a copy of the judgement “might be” submitted in the court with the comments on a previous hearing and directed him to ensure that all the relevant documents must be available at the next hearing.
The court also directed the lawyer for the appellants to advance arguments on Aug 16.
The Inter-Services Public Relations had announced in May 2017 the confirmation of the death sentences of the five convicts by military courts in a number of cases of terrorism, including the Safoora Goth carnage and Ms Mahmud’s murder cases.
The convicts, through their counsel, submitted that they were tried by the military court, set up at Malir Cantonment, adding that they were kept in the Karachi central prison, where they were provided the appeal format to file the same before the registrar, court of appeals, Judge Advocate General of the General Headquarters of Army.
They further said that in August they were informed that their appeals had been turned down on July 25, 2016, and capital punishment upheld. Then, they moved the Lahore High Court against the conviction, but their appeals were rejected for not being maintainable since the crime was committed and trial conducted within the SHC’s jurisdiction.
The prosecution said that 47 people of the Shia Ismaili community, including 18 women, were killed in an armed attack on their bus near Safoora Goth in May 2015.
Sabeen Mahmud, social media campaigner and human rights activist who founded the social forum T2F, was gunned down in April 2015 in Defence Housing Authority when she was returning home with her mother after organising a seminar on Balochistan.
Police in the investigation report had contended that all the accused of the Safoora Goth carnage remained associated with Al Qaeda and following its split, they became part of the self-styled Islamic State group.
Another bench of the SHC on Monday expressed resentment over non-payment of provident fund and gratuity to retired employees of Pakistan Steel Mills and directed the secretaries of finance and production to appear before the court at the next hearing.
The two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Shafi Siddiqui also sought a complete record of the sale of PSM land.
The lawyer for the petitioners argued that the federal government had sold around 1,500 acres of the PSM land worth Rs206 billion in 2018, but still the dues of the retired employees had not been paid.
The attorney general, Anwar Mansoor Khan, argued that it was decided at a cabinet meeting that the PSM would not be handed over to the private sector, but it would be strengthened through public-private partnership.
He further submitted that the salaries were being paid to the employees of the PSM despite the fact that there was no production.
Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2019