PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday directed the federal government to respond to a petition seeking orders to stop it from making a deal with the banned terrorist outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan without the consultation of parents of those killed in the 2014 Peshawar Army Public School attack.

A bench consisting of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Fazal Subhan issued the order after preliminary hearing into the petition filed by mothers of four students and a woman teacher assassinated by the TTP militants in the APS attack on Dec 16, 2014.

Advocate Ajoon Khan, whose son Asfand Khan was also killed in the massacre, appeared for the petitioners and said parents of the slain students and teachers were the victims of the most barbaric act of terrorism in the country’s history but they had still not been taken into confidence about the ongoing negotiations of the government with the proscribed TTP.

He requested the court to issue directives to the government not to take any step of reconciliation with the TTP without taking him and the petitioners on board.

The bench fixed July 28 for next hearing.

During previous hearing, the court had ordered the interior secretary to appear before it, but he didn’t turn up.

A joint secretary of the interior division informed the bench that the secretary had tested positive for coronavirus and therefore, he was absent from the hearing.

When asked by the court regarding the government-TTP parleys, the officer said he was not aware of any such dialogue.

Mr Ajoon wondered how it was possible, especially when a jirga was recently sent to Afghanistan to hold talks with the TTP militants and that was widely reported in the media.

Additional attorney general Aamir Jawed contended that the petition was not maintainable and was liable to be dismissed as a judicial commission had conducted an inquiry into the APS attack and the matter was pending with the Supreme Court.

Mr Ajoon contended that the matter pending with the apex court was altogether different from the one being considered by the high court. He said the Supreme Court had ordered an inquiry by a high court judge, who submitted a report to the former.

The lawyer argued that the petition was related to parleys between the TTP and the government, which was the latest development, and therefore, it was different from the one pending with the Supreme Court.

The AAG said the government had provided several incentives to the parents of the APS attack victims and had already met several of their demands.

Mr Ajoon said his clients had lost their children in the deadliest terrorist attack in the country and it was their right to know about the conditions on which the government was holding talks with the assassins.

The petitioners included Falak Naz, mother of students Noorullah and Saifullah, Shahana, mother of Asfand Khan, Seema, mother of Aimal Khan, and Zulaikha, mother of teacher Sadia Gul.

Lawyer Ajoon said his clients were the direct victims of the assassination of APS students and teachers by the TTP. The respondents in the petition are the defence ministry through its secretary, interior ministry through its secretary, federal government through law secretary, and focal person of the National Action Plan.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2022

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