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The Supreme Court of Pakistan.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the legal heirs of Maj-General (retd) Zaheerul Islam Abbasi, who had previously filed an appeal against his court martial, and other concerned parties in the case, DawnNews reported.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heard the review petition.

During the hearing, Maj-Gen (retd) Abbasi’s counsel Habib Wahabul Khairi told the court that his client had passed away. He said that his client had been accused of attempting to overthrow the government during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure, which had prompted the army to court martial him.

Khairi said that an appeal was filed against the court martial in the Supreme Court, but it had not been heard in the past 15 years.

Moreover, during the course of the years, Maj-Gen Abbasi’s assets were also confiscated, which was a violation of army regulation, the counsel argued.

The counsel added that the court should order the return of his assets.

After hearing the counsel’s arguments, the court issued a notice to President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and other concerned parties in the case.

Notices were also issued to concerned parties in review appeals filed by Brigadier Mustansir Billah, Colonel Inayatullah and Colonel Azad Minhasi who had been convicted with Maj-General Abbasi.

Later on, the court adjourned the hearing for three weeks.

The case against Zaheerul Islam Abbasi

Earlier, the Supreme Court had rejected Maj-Gen (retd) Abbasi’s appeal filed in 1997 against the seven-year jail term awarded to him by the Field General Court Marshal (FGCM). The appeal was dismissed and the court had observed that the matter was outside the purview of civilian courts.

Maj-Gen (retd) Abbasi, Brig Mustansir Billah, two colonels and 38 other military officers were arrested on Sept 26, 1995, on charges of plotting to storm a corps commanders’ meeting to be held on Sept 30 at the general headquarters in Rawalpindi.

They had also allegedly plotted to proclaim ‘Khilafat’ or Islamic rule, with Maj-Gen Abbasi as Amirul Momeneen (Leader of the Faithful) after assassinating the then prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the then army chief General Abdul Waheed Kakkar, senior cabinet ministers and senior military officers.

Details of the conspiracy were revealed after Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a co-conspirator and chief of his breakaway faction called Harkatul Jihad Al Islami turned an approver. On his evidence, the FGCM awarded the seven-year jail sentence to Maj-Gen (retd) Abbasi. A large cache of arms and military uniforms had also been confiscated. The FGCM also awarded a 14-year jail term to Brigadier Mustansir Billah for his alleged involvement in the attempted coup.

Qari Akhtar was not convicted as a part of the deal with the government. He was later reported to have slipped to Kabul where he ran a training camp.

After Sept 11, 2001, when the US invaded Afghanistan, the training camp was hit in a bombing raid in which most of his trained men were killed.

Qari Akhtar then disappeared from Afghanistan. He was arrested in the United Arab Emirates in 2004 and handed over to Pakistan.

His name was mentioned by Benazir Bhutto in her last book ‘Reconciliation Islam, Democracy and the West’ in which she wrote that she believed that Qari Akhtar’s gang wanted to kill her.

Qari Akhtar was again arrested in Lahore on Feb 26, 2008, for his alleged involvement in an attempt to assassinate Ms Bhutto in Karachi on Oct 18, 2007, the day when she arrived in Pakistan after ending eight years of exile.