PHC stays execution of five convicted by military courts

PESHAWAR (TLTP): The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has issued a stay order against the execution of five terror convicts and suspended action on their death sentences awarded by military courts. Two single-member benches issued notices to the defense ministry seeking its response to the petitions filed by convicts against their respective sentences.
The TLTP learnt that the courts declared that as the matter was related to the division bench, the petitions should be placed before the available division bench after the ongoing winter vacation. Advocate Shabbir Hussain Gigyani appeared before the courts for the petitioners pro bono and said that they were kept in different detention centres and were not aware about their convictions.
He said that recently they were shifted to the Peshawar Central Prison where they came to know that they had been convicted by the military courts and were sentenced to death. The petitioners included Mohammad Munir of Kohat district and Sharafat Ali, Anwar Ali, Rehmat Ali and Mohammad Ali, all residents of Swat district.
The counsel insisted that all five petitioners were previously ‘missing persons’ and that they were taken into custody during different periods, while their whereabouts were not known for some years. A news release issued by the ISPR in Sept 2018 declared one of the petitioners, Mohammad Munir, as part of a proscribed militant organisation.
It added that Munir was involved in an attack on the personnel of law-enforcement agencies, which killed police constables Khursheed Khan, Enayat Khan and Moeen Khan and two other officials, and injured 12. The news release also revealed that the then chief of army staff had confirmed the sentences of death awarded to 13 terrorists, including Mohammad Munir.
However, the counsel for Munir insisted that his client was taken into custody on May 11, 2017, and kept at an undisclosed detention centre before being shifted to the Kohat Internment Centre. He said that the records showed the arrest of his client in 2017, while failure of authorities to produce him before the relevant court was an illegal and unconstitutional act. About the other four petitioners, the counsel said that no information was available on record as to when they all were convicted by the military courts and for what acts of terrorism. The military courts were established in 2015 through the Constitution (Twenty-First Amendment) Act, 2015, to hear the cases of terrorism for a period of two years, which ended on Jan 6, 2017.
The period was later extended until March 30, 2019, through the Constitution (Twenty-Third Amendment) Act, 2017. Similarly, parliament made amendments to the Pakistan Army Act for the inclusion of several offences in the law. The amendments empowered military courts to try terrorists. However, they were limited to the trial of only those, who claimed or were known to be part of terrorist groups using the name of religion or religious sects to carry out their activities.