PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to produce details of the people, who are in military’s custody over their alleged involvement in the May 9 violent protests in the province.

A bench consisting of Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Syed M Attique Shah directed provincial advocate general Aamir Javed to submit a detailed report about those suspects.

It fixed Dec 14 for next hearing into a joint petition filed by lawyer Shah Faisal Uthmankhel on behalf of six people, stated to be in custody of military authorities in connection with an FIR registered in Mardan district for firing at army centres and vandalising statues of war heroes on May 9.

The petition sought the court’s orders for authorities to shift suspects Adnan Ahmad, Rehmatullah, Yasir Nawaz, Shakirullah, Said Alam and Zahid Khan, all Mardan residents, from the military’s custody to prisons along with around 100 other detainees facing the same charges.

Detainees petition for their transfer to prisons

The suspects said their continuous detention by military authorities even after the Supreme Court called the trial of civilians by military courts unconstitutional should be declared illegal.

AG Javed informed the bench that along with the federal government, the KP government had also filed an appeal with the apex court against its judgement under the new law, Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023.

He said that under the law, the hearing into appeals should be conducted by the apex court within 14 days of filing it.

Mr Javed contended that the petitioners and other suspects were handed over to the military authorities on the order of the concerned anti-terrorism courts in different areas.

Lawyer Uthmankhel insisted that after the illegal arrest of former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan from the premises of Islamabad High Court on May 9, people staged protests across the country.

He added that the petitioners were arrested in connection with an FIR registered at Mardan City police station on May 9 initially under different provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code, Anti-Terrorism Act and Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance.

The counsel added that the provisions of the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act were also subsequently included in the FIR, which named the petitioners and 500 other unidentified people.

He said that after arrest, the petitioners were handed over to military authorities for trial by their own courts.

Mr Uthmankhel pointed out that around 107 people, including petitioners, were arrested and given in the custody of military authorities.

He said that seven constitutional petitions were filed with the Supreme Court challenging different provisions of the Army Act and the trial of civilians by military courts.

The lawyer contended that a five-member Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan declared the trial of civilians by military courts unconstitutional on Oct 23, 2023.

He, however, argued that despite the clear orders of the apex court, the petitioners and around 100 other suspects were still in the custody of military authorities instead of being shifted to the relevant civil prisons.

Mr Uthmankhel added that it was against the Constitution and the law to keep a suspect in the military’s custody.

The respondents in the petition are the federal government through the defence ministry, the interior and defence secretaries, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government through its home secretary, and provincial inspector general of police.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2023

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