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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the details of persons, including women and children, arrested following the 9th May incident and detained in civil and military facilities across the country.

The chief justice noted that according to the petitioners around 4,000 people have been detained across the country whether under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO), the Official Secrets Act, or the Anti-Terrorism Act. Even children have been arrested. The telephone calls are tapped and meetings are surveilled. “We have found that such and such meeting surveilled and the phone call tapped.”

The chief justice further said that they are not only talking about the right of privacy, but we are talking about the right of liberty, we are talking about Article 9 of the Constitution. “I hope no trial of any civilian is conducted by the military court yet.” Justice Mansoor asked the attorney general to also provide the details of the bails granted or applied to persons nominated in the FIRs.

Trial in military courts: SC bench to hear pleas today

A seven-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, heard the petitions against the trial of civilians by the military courts, following a nine-member bench dissolved as Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood separated.

Justice Faez said; “I don’t consider this (nine-member bench) as the court therefore will not recuse, but would not sit in any bench until the petitions against Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 were decided.” Justice Tariq said; “I fully support the version of Justice Qazi.”

Sardar Latif Khosa, representing senior advocate Aitzaz Ahsan, requested the Court to issue a stay order against the trials of the civilians in the military courts. The chief justice said they will not grant a stay. “Without hearing the attorney general stay order can’t be passed.”

Faisal Siddiqui, who is the counsel of a civil society group, said they have not challenged the vires of Army Act, but opposed the trials of civilians under the Army Act.

The chief justice refused to grant stay, saying that would be seen after hearing the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP). He said that the Court has received four petitions and one of the grounds in them is that the provisions in the Army Act do not cater to the law of the country i.e. no appeal available, the reasons of the judgments are not recorded, adjudication are not independent, and the trial is not held in the open court.

He questioned whether the trials at the military court are under civil law, and accused has the right to be represented by a lawyer, adding the lawyers are harassed, as two or three lawyers are terrorised. One gentleman was kept in illegal custody for six days. Uzair Bandahri was kept at the police station for four hours, and Latif Khosa’s residence was attacked and mistreated. The attorney general said the government wants no lawyer to be mistreated.

The chief justice said that in such circumstances, no lawyer will be able to appear before the military courts. He further said that all journalists should be freed. This is not right to abduct them and keep them in illegal custody. This is violation of their fundamental rights.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s counsel Shoaib Shaheen informed the bench that the Registrar’s Office had raised objection to his petition, therefore, they have filed an appeal against the Registrar Office’s objections. He asked the chief justice to direct the office to allot a number to their prayer petition. However, the chief justice said that there are many prayers in the petition, and except one other prayers are of political nature. He said they are not dismissing your petition, but it goes in a different category.

Earlier, Sardar Latif Khosa briefed the bench about 9th May incident, and in pursuance of that arrest of PTI leaders and workers. He said that 96 FIRs have been registered against the PTI workers, under offences 302, 324, 436, 450, and 452. He apprised that some people arrested after 9th May were handed to Military Commanding Officer Irfan Athar by a judge of the Special Court in Lahore.

He then contended that after invoking Article 245, the high courts’ jurisdiction under Article 199 had ended. However, Justice Afridi pointed out that the notification for the requisition of armed forces had been recalled.

Latif Khosa then said that a press statement issued after the Formation Commanders Conference had stated that there was “irrefutable evidence” regarding the events of May 9. “Did the press release say trials would happen in military courts due to irrefutable evidence?” CJP Bandial asked, to which, Khosa replied in the negative. Justice Bandial then asked whether the trials of civilians in the country’s military courts had commenced.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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