PESHAWAR: Asking the government to produce the relevant records, the Peshawar High Court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing into around 110 petitions against the conviction of suspected militants by military courts until Oct 13.
A bench consisting of Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Mohammad Naeem Anwar said the production of records was required to proceed in those cases.
When the bench began hearing into the petitions, the relevant officials sought more time for producing records.
The bench was hearing around 3,110 petitions filed by convicts or their close family members for the rejection of conviction and release of convicts.
KP advocate general Shumail Ahmad Butt appeared for the provincial government, while additional attorney general Qazi Babar Irshad represented the federal government, including the ministries of law and justice, and defence.
PHC hears petitions for release of convicted militants
Lawyers Arif Jan, Shabir Hussain Gigyani, Naqeebullah Takkar, Ziaur Rehman Tajik, Danyal Asad Chamkani and others represented the petitioners.
The petitions were filed against conviction of suspected militants by military courts, including death penalties, announced from time to time in scores of cases related to the acts of terrorism.
The court has already granted an interim relief to those convicts by staying their execution on different dates.
On Oct 18, 2018, a high court bench headed by Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth had accepted 75 other petitions of military court convicts and set aside their conviction and sentences mostly death penalties.
On June 16, 2020, it accepted 198 petitions filed mostly by close relatives of the military court convicts majority of whom were awarded death sentence or life imprisonment over involvement in different acts of terrorism.
The Supreme Court had suspended those high court judgments after the provincial government filed appeals against them. The main appeals of the government have been pending with the apex court since then.
Most of the petitioners have claimed that the convicts were taken into custody by the security forces many years ago and they’re held incommunicado.
They mostly claimed that their relatives remained missing for many years and they learned from media reports about their conviction for militancy by military courts.
Some petitioners claimed that after their relatives went missing, they came to know about their detention in internment centres and that the newspapers later reported that their relatives were sentenced to death by military courts over acts of militancy.
They mostly contended that convictions came without the production of any evidence of involvement in militant activities and on the basis of so-called confessional statements of the convicts, which were recorded contrary to the provisions of the law.
Their lawyers said while the convicts remained in the custody of the security forces, their so-called confessional statements were recorded after a delay of many years.
The high court in the earlier judgments about the acquittal of convicts had ruled that during the proceedings before the military courts, the relevant provisions of the Pakistan Army Act and Rules were violated and that the suspected militants were not provided with an opportunity to avail themselves of the counsel of own choice.
Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2020