SC to hear appeals against military court convictions
March 14 2016 10:04 PM


The Supreme Court of Pakistan will commence hearing 10 appeals instituted against military court convictions of militants from tomorrow, the media reported yesterday.
The appeals will be taken up by a five-judge larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Dawn online reported.
At the last hearing, on February 24, Jamali had ordered that all the challenges against military court decisions be clubbed, with the directive that execution of the convicts would remain suspended until the pending petitions were decided.
Two of the convicts were awarded death sentence by the military courts for their alleged involvement in the December 16, 2014, carnage at the Army Public School in Peshawar, which killed more than 150 people, most of them school children.
The South Asian nation unveiled a sweeping plan to curb militancy after the attack.
A six-year moratorium on the country’s death penalty was lifted and the constitution amended to allow military courts to try those accused of carrying out attacks.
Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but in March they were extended to all capital offences.
Earlier this year the Ministry of Interior and Narcotics Control said 332 people had been executed in the country.
Following the attack on the school, senior lawyer Salim Shah Hoti had said persons found involved in helping militants in carry out terror attacks (facilitators) are liable to be sentenced to death in accordance with the law of the land. Military courts had been set up after the passage of 21st Amendment in Jan 2015 to proceed with terror- related cases.
After lifting of the moratorium on death penalty through an executive order following the Army Public School attack, these courts were authorised to sentence to death facilitators, abettors and handlers of the terrorists without any distinction.  
The interior ministry was required to send the case of facilitators arrested by security forces for their involvement in the attack at Bacha Khan University to the military courts because the law applied to them.
However, opponents of the policy stress that Pakistan’s legal system is unjust, with rampant police torture and poor representation for victims during unfair trials, while the majority of those who are hanged are not convicted of terror charges.
“They (government) are hanging petty criminals but known terrorists on death row are awaiting their punishment for years,” Asma Jahangir, a lawyer and human rights activist in Pakistan, has been quoted as saying.
She has accused the government of failing to act consistently, citing the men convicted of murdering journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002, who were handed death sentence years ago but have yet to be hanged.
But supporters of the plan argue that executions are the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy in Pakistan.
Earlier this month, the Senate of Pakistan proposed changes in the laws pertaining to counter-terrorism strategy to ensure swift dispensation of justice along with mechanism for security and protection of witnesses, prosecutors and judges.  
The report of the Committee of Whole, Senate of Pakistan 2015 emphasised enhanced evidential value of confessional statements in terrorism cases and increased co-ordination between police and military-run intelligence agencies.  
Regarding the enforced disappearances, the Senate’s report states that the Constitution’s articles regarding fundamental rights of citizens should be taught in all academies run by military, para-military forces and police.  
The Senate has given 90 days to the government to adopt its recommendations.

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