PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday adjourned hearing into around 300 petitions against the conviction of suspected militants by military courts until June 16 asking the government to produce records in all those cases.
A bench consisting of Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Mohammad Nasir Mehfooz observed that the decision in those cases won’t be further delayed and if records were not produced, the court would hear bail petitions filed by some convicts.
A representative of the Pakistan Army’s judge advocate general branch produced the sealed records in 78 of the cases and sought more time for the production of the rest.
He said several of the relevant offices were closed due to the Covid-19 emergency causing problems for those tasked with compiling records, so more time should be granted to them for the purpose.
As the court files were also not available due to the temporary closure of the high court’s writ branch, the bench decided to adjourn hearing.
The bench held an in-camera hearing into around 300 petitions filed by convicts or their family members seeking orders to set aside convictions and order the release of convicts.
Provincial advocate general Shumail Ahmad Butt appeared for the provincial government, whereas additional attorney general Qazi Babar Irshad and Aamir Jawed represented the federal government, including the law and defence ministries.
PHC asks govt to produce records until June 16
The counsel for petitioners included Shabbir Hussain Gigyani, Naqeebullah Takkar, Arif Jan, Ziaur Rehman Tajik, Danyal Asad Chamkani, Amirullah Chamkani, Naveed Akhtar, Sajeed Afridi and others.
The petitions were filed against convictions by military courts, including death penalties to suspected militants from time to time in scores of terror cases.
The court has already granted interim relief to the convicts and stayed their execution on different dates.
In Nov last year, the court had rejected the plea of the federal government to form a larger bench for hearing petitions.
The order was challenged by the government in the Supreme Court. The matter is still pending with the court.
Most petitions claimed that the convicts were taken into custody by the security forces many years ago and remained missing for many years and that only media reports revealed their conviction by military courts.
Some petitioners insisted that after their relatives remained missing, they learned about their detention in internment centres and that newspapers later reported the award of death sentence to them by military courts.
They mostly contended that they were convicted without evidence and on basis of so-called confessional statements, which were recorded contrary to the provisions of the law.
Their counsel said while the convicts remained in the custody of security forces, their ‘so-called’ confessions were recorded with a delay of many years.
A high court bench headed by Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth had accepted 75 other petitions of military court convicts on Oct 18, 2018, and set aside their convictions and sentences, mostly death penalties.
The Supreme Court had suspended the judgment over the government’s appeals.
The main appeals of the government have been pending with the apex court.
Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2020