RAWALPINDI: Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan of the Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench has questioned the indefinite detention of a former intelligence official by military authorities and sought detailed records of the proceedings against the man, who faces espionage charges.

The inquiry came during the hearing of a petition filed by Saima Hassan, the wife of the detained official, Hassan Bin Aftab.

Ms Hassan, represented by her counsel Inamur Rahim, stated in the petition that her husband, a retired military officer who served for 27 years, had not returned home after leaving for his routine activities on Sept 19, 2023.

She claimed that he was taken into custody under the Official Secrets Act and the Pakistan Army Act.

She stated that “in case of any allegation of violation of the Official Secrets Act, the said Act provides a mechanism for the arrest as well as the trial of the offences”, but Mr Aftab had been denied meaningful access to his family and legal counsel and was being kept in illegal custody.

Justice Khan inquired about the date Mr Aftab was taken into custody.

Mr Rahim confirmed that Mr Aftab had been detained since Sept 19 and had not been produced before a magistrate as required by law.

Justice Khan questioned as to why the military authorities could not detain any suspect for an indefinite period.

Additional Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti defended the military’s actions, stating that Mr Aftab, as a military officer, was arrested under relevant provisions of the Pakistan Army and Official Secrets Acts.

He informed the court that Mr Aftab had been presented before the relevant commanding officer and was under investigation.

Justice Khan sought the details about the proceeding against Mr Aftab.

Mr Bhatti pointed out that the officer is being dealt in accordance with Section 73 that states: “Any person subject to this Act who is charged with any offence may be taken into military custody.”

Subsection 2 of this Section says, “Any such person may be ordered into military custody by any superior officer.”

The hearing was adjourned, with Justice Khan stating that the court would review the relevant legal provisions before making a decision on the petition.

During his military career, Mr Aftab served with the country’s premier intelligence agency and the Pakistan High Commission in London as a consular.

After retirement, he was involved with consultancy firms specialising in security, counterterrorism, strategic planning and government relations.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2024

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