PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday directed the counsel for military court convicts, federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to file written arguments on around 230 petitions against those convictions until Feb 20.
A bench consisting of Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor observed that the petitions would be decided even if the petitioners or respondents didn’t argue in writing.
It added that the federal government hadn’t produced records in those cases despite the passage of over a year and repeated court orders.
The bench fixed Feb 20 for the next hearing into the petitions, which mostly challenged the sentences of death awarded to petitioners or their close relatives by the military courts.
The court has been conducting in-camera hearing into the petitions related to convictions by military courts.
The petitions were filed from time to time in scores of terrorism-related cases.
PHC observes govt hasn’t produced records for over a year despite repeated orders
The court has already granted interim relief to the convicts by issuing stay orders against their execution.
In Nov last year, the court had rejected the plea of the federal government to constitute a larger bench for hearing these petitions.
Provincial advocate general Shumail Ahmad Butt appeared for provincial government, whereas additional attorney general Qazi Babar Irshad and Aamir Jawed represented the federal government, including the ministries of law and justice and defence.
Lawyers Shabbir Hussain Gigyani, Ziaur Rehman Tajik, Arif Jan, Danyal Asad Chamkani, Barrister Amirullah Chamkani, Naveed Akhtar, Sajeed Afridi and others represented the petitioners in the court.
Lawyers for the governments requested the bench for an adjournment of the hearing into petitions.
The bench observed that the cases had already been delayed on one pretext or another.
It added that the government hadn’t been producing records in those cases.
Most petitioners have claimed that the security forces had held convicts incommunicado for many years and they learned about their convictions by military courts through media reports.
Some petitioners insisted that they knew about the presence of relatives in internment centres years after they remained missing and that the newspapers reported afterward the award of death sentence to them by military courts.
They mostly contended that they were convicted without evidence and on the basis of the so-called confessional statements, which were recorded against the provisions of the law.
Their counsel said while the convicts remained in the custody of security forces, their so-called confessions were recorded after many years of detention.
On Oct 18, a high court bench headed by Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth had accepted 75 other petitions filed by the military court convicts and set aside their convictions and sentences mostly death penalties.
However, the Supreme Court suspended that judgment over appeals filed by the government. The main appeals of the government are still pending with the apex court.
In those cases, the high court had ruled that the convictions were based on ‘malice in law and facts’ and not evidence.
In the detailed judgment, the court had discarded the confessional statements of all convicts by thoroughly discussing the flaws in it.
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2020