KARACHI/PESHAWAR – More military courts were approved for southern metropolitan Karachi yesterday when a civil court in northwestern city of Peshawar stayed a death penalty passed by one of such tribunals.
The parliament approved setting up of military courts across the country to hear terrorism cases after a Taliban massacre at a military-run school eight months ago.
More than 130 children and 16 adults were brutally killed in that attack in Peshawar – the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The decision on establishment of military courts, which hear cases in secret, prompted criticism from lawyers and rights activists.
However, the Supreme Court backed the move earlier this month, rejecting claims it was unconstitutional but affirmed defendants’ right to challenge sentences in civilian courts.
Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, has been reeling from ethnic and political violence for more than three decades.
The government has also launched a cleanup operation against criminals and terrorists in this port city, to the annoyance of MQM which dominates urban Sindh.
Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif reached Karachi late on Monday to review the security situation there.
He okayed increase in military courts for the commercial hub of the country at a briefing in Corps V Headquarters.
“(The) Chief of Army Staff approved increase in number of military courts at Karachi to handle outstanding terrorist cases,” army spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said on Twitter.
General Raheel Sharif “directed across the board operations to eliminate terrorists, criminals and mafias from Karachi,” Bajwa added.
The security briefing was also attended by the Corps Commander, Director General (DG) Rangers Major General Bilal Akbar, DG Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Bajwa, Sindh Police Inspector General (IG) Ghulam Hyder Jamali and representatives from the intelligence agencies.
Gen Raheel commended all ranks of the Rangers, police, intelligence agencies and the people of Karachi for their support on the occasion.
The chief of army staff also directed all concerned authorities to continue the security operation across the board, and break the nexus that exists between terrorism, criminal mafias and corruption to ensure peace and prosperity in the commercial hub of the country.
In order to increase the operational capacity of Karachi’s police forces, equipment worth Rs65 million was handed over, while training for the same has been completed.
Earlier in the day, the army chief visited Army Air Defence center in Karachi’s Malir Cantonment area and laid floral wreath at the Yadgar-i-Shuhada monument.
The army chief was briefed about the training activities at the center which was founded in 1989.
He also pinned the badges of rank on the shoulders of Lieutenant General Zamir Ul Hassan Shah, Adjutant General Pakistan Army to formally install him as Colonel Commandant of Army Air Defence.
General Raheel Sharif also addressed all officers and men of the Garrison.
He is also scheduled to visit Corps V Headquarters also known as Karachi Corps later during the day.
Also on Tuesday, the Peshawar High Court suspended a death sentence passed by a military tribunal.
“The Peshawar High Court has ordered the military court to halt the execution of my client Haider Ali, who was awarded the death sentence by a military court on August 13,” Ajmal Khan, lawyer of the death row convict told a foreign news agency, AFP.
Khan said the military personnel came to visit Ali’s parents to inform them of the sentence but did not say what the conviction was for.
On the same date, the military announced the death penalty for six militants linked to an assault on a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed 151 people in the country’s deadliest terror attack, but Ali’s name was not included on that statement.
He said Ali was handed over to the military in 2009 by a local council of elders, known as a jirga, and his family has not heard from him since.
“The family of my client was never allowed to meet him since the military took him into custody in 2009 — they won’t even say anything about where he is to his parents,” he said.
Khan said the family only heard about the death sentence through the media.
“My client was a grade 10 student at the time of his arrest and was around 15 years old,” he said.
A court official confirmed details of the case, saying Ali was listed as a missing person and a petition for his recovery had been with the court for five years.
The military courts were established as part of a crackdown on militancy following the massacre at the Peshawar school on December 16 last year.
Parliament has approved the use of the courts for the coming two years, and cases are referred to them by provincial governments.
But some have called for the trials to be more transparent.
Announcing the court’s decision on the petition, a PHC bench ordered to halt implementation of the military court’s verdict of Ali’s death sentence until Sept 8.
The court adjourned hearing while issuing notices to the federal government, defence secretary, home secretary, GOC Malakand and other concerned officers.
Earlier, SC office rejected a petition moved by Zahir Shah, the father of Haider Ali, seeking the record of the trial court proceedings for filing a proper appeal either in SC or the high court.
The registrar returned the plea saying the plaintif had not approached the high court concerned or any other appropriate forum for the same relief.