LAHORE: The Punjab caretaker government has informed the Lahore High Court (LHC) that visiting a suspect in military custody was not allowed under any law.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Hafeezullah Niazi to recover his son, Barrister Hassaan Khan Niazi, and allow him to meet his son who was in military custody.
Barrister Niazi has been handed over to the military for trial over his alleged involvement in the attack on the Lahore corps commander’s house on May 9.
At the outset of the hearing on Friday, LHC Bar Association’s president Advocate Ishtiaq A. Khan appeared on behalf of the petitioner and contended the court ordered the government to ensure the meeting at the last hearing.
Punjab govt tells Lahore High Court matter already pending before SC
When Justice Sultan Tanvir Ahmad asked whether the meeting had taken place, Additional Advocate General Ghulam Sarwar Nahang said several cases with similar questions of law were pending before the Supreme Court.
Mr Nahang said the petitioner should take his plea to the SC.
The bar’s president pointed out the Punjab government did not honour the undertaking given by the attorney general for Pakistan before the SC to allow detainees to meet family members.
Justice Ahmad asked the lawyer whether the SC order applied to the 102 suspects already in the military’s custody.
Advocate Khan replied the order was to allow all detained suspects to meet their families.
He argued that the Army Act, 1952 — under which civilians were held in military custody — cannot usurp the fundamental rights of citizens protected under the Constitution.
The family of Indian spy Kalbushan Yadav was also permitted to see him while he was in the army’s custody, Advocate Khan argued.
He also cast doubts over the government’s claim before the SC that no lawyer or journalist was in the army’s custody. Whereas, he alleged, journalist Imran Riaz Khan and Advocate Niazi were in the custody of the army.
AAG Nahang said the SC had already taken note of the trials of May 9 suspects in military court and the question of the suspects’ meeting with family members was also pending before it.
He said proceedings in the high court on the same question of law would complicate the matter.
“Can the attorney general for Pakistan arrange meetings of the suspects with their families?” Justice Ahmad asked the law officer, who answered in the affirmative.
Although the law officer was unable to confirm whether the SOPs for the meetings had been made in light of the attorney general’s undertaking before the apex court.
Following the arguments, the judge adjourned the hearing till the date to be fixed by the registrar’s office.
At the last hearing, the caretaker government had informed the LHC the PTI chief’s nephew had been handed over to the military for trial.
The court was told the army had requested the police to hand over the custody of Advocate Niazi, who was declared a proclaimed offender, under Section 549(3) of CrPC.
A government report said the absconding lawyer had been found involved in offences under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, read with sections 2(1)(d) and 59(4) of the Pakistan Army Act, 1952. These offences are bound to be tried by a court-martial.
The report said Mr Hassaan was arrested from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and his custody was delivered to military authorities on Aug 17.
Mr Niazi is among several members associated with the PTI who have been handed over to the military for trial over their alleged involvement in attacks on May 9, following the arrest of PTI chief Imran Khan.
On May 25, an Anti-Terrorism Court handed over the custody of 16 other suspects, including a former PTI MPA, to the military for trial in two cases registered against the attack on the corps commander’s residence.
Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2023