ISLAMABAD: The family of an army veteran on Tuesday made an impassioned plea to military and judicial authorities to ensure that justice is done in the case of Hasan Askree, a civilian who was court martialed after he wrote a critical letter to former army chief retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
According to a press release issued after the press conference, this was the first time Mr Askree’s family members — including his father retired Maj-Gen Syed Zaffar Mehdi Askree, mother Wasima and sister Zehra — had gone public with their ordeal.
They claimed that not only was Hasan unjustly tried in a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) and summarily sentenced without even being informed of the actual charges, they insisted that he had been incarcerated alongside hardened criminals and terrorists in a maximum security prison and had not been transferred to Adiala jail, despite a court order.
Hasan Askree was picked up from his home in Oct 2020 and transferred to military custody. He was convicted and sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment following an FGCM trial, although neither he nor his family members have received a copy of the charges or verdict, despite repeated requests.
Hasan Askree was allegedly convicted for writing a critical letter to former army chief
Hasan’s father, Maj-Gen Zaffar Askree said he had been seeking a short meeting with military authorities for two and a half years and had written more than two dozen letters. However, he said, there has been no response or communication of any kind to date.
He said that their ordeal was the result of certain alleged letters that his son had written to the former chief of army staff and his top generals, expressing his concern over the probable impact of decisions taken by the armed forces on Pakistan’s economic and political situation.
Hasan’s father said that the FIR lodged against his son made reference to an offense under Section 131 of the Pakistan Penal Code (abetting mutiny, or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty) but did not contain any provision of the Pakistan Army Act.
Calling it a grave miscarriage of justice, Hasan’s family maintained that court martialing a civilian for supposedly attempting to seduce military officials, made a mockery of the offense of mutiny and insubordination.
They explained that the alleged letter just expressed the concerns of a patriotic citizen who never had links with any organisation or political party, nor did it incite violence or anti-state sentiments of any kind.
Despite this, his son was transferred to military custody by a magistrate without being given an opportunity to defend himself, kept in solitary confinement for months without charge or access to a lawyer and was only given permission to contact his family after he was charged.
Hasan’s sister, Zehra, told mediapersons that the verdict was never communicated his lawyer or family.
Zehra emphasized that it was almost impossible for her elderly and sick parents to visit Hasan in Sahiwal under the strict visiting policy. She said her mother had been suffering from end-stage renal failure and needed dialysis three times a week. Over the past two and a half years, she said, her mother’s condition has deteriorated immensely. Her father was also 87 years old and suffering from multiple ailments, she said, pointing out that in such conditions, traveling 14-15 hours a day for a half hour visit was next to impossible.
She also showed an order of the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench from June 14, 2022, which contained directions to transfer Hasan from the High Security Prison in Sahiwal to Central Jail, Adiala, Rawalpindi “within fortnight.”
But, despite the lapse of nine months, she said there had been no compliance.
Dawn reached out to the military’s public relations arm — Inter-Services Public Relations — for comment but did not receive a response until the filing of this report.
Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2023