RAWALPINDI/KARACHI - Two high courts of the country on Monday stayed capital punishment to seven persons, after six terrorists were hanged following abandonment of six-year moratorium on executions just a few days ago amid a national anger over Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) suspended capital punishment to five persons convicted by a military court for attacking security forces’ personnel on claims they were denied fair trial. They were to be hanged the same day (Monday), according to their lawyer.
Sindh High Court barred execution of two convicts just a day before their hanging in Sukkur today (Tuesday). The court suspended death warrants issued for convicted terrorists - Ataullah alias Qasim and Muhammed Azam – and ordered authorities to transfer them to Karachi Central Jail.
The lawyers argued their clients cannot be hanged as their appeals were pending before higher courts. “The Sindh High Court suspended the death warrants of two terrorists today,” additional advocate general Mustafa Mehsar told a news agency. Defence attorney Abdul Razaq confirmed the news.
“We had filed a petition in the Sindh High Court and the second review petition is pending in the superior courts and till the decision of the petition, the death penalty could not be implemented,” Razaq told AFP. Both the accused were sentenced to death in July 2004 for killing a doctor in Karachi in July 2001.
On the other hand, LHC Rawalpindi Bench was approached with the claim that for persons – Umer Nadim, Amir Yousaf, Asif Idrees, Ehsan Azeem and Kamran Aslam – were not given fair trial by military courts as required under country’s constitution.
Justice Arshad Mehmood Tabassum suspended the execution of death sentence and ordered the military authorities to hand over copies of military court proceedings to the said five persons, who would remain detained at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail until next hearing.
The federal government however challenged the stay order saying the counsel of the convicts, Laeeq Khan Swati, had concealed all the facts before the court. Standing Counsel for government Chaudhry Masroof In his application claimed that all the legal requirements were followed during the course of proceedings and the decision was given on merit. He requested the court to withdraw the stay order.
These five convicted persons were reportedly picked up by security agencies in July 2013 on account of killing seven army officials and a police constable in Jehlum in 2012. A military court awarded them capital punishment.
Laeeq Swati, the lawyer for the five persons, told reporters that he came to know through media that the five alleged terrorists languishing in Kot Lakhpat Jail were to be sent to gallows today (Monday). He said he had nothing in writing with him that could reveal if their black warrants had been signed by Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.
Earlier, Swati argued in the court that Article 10-A of the constitution guaranteed the right of fair trial to all citizens. He claimed that military authorities had not provided any lawyer to his clients during the trial. He said their trial was conducted by Field General Court Martial and later their appeals were dismissed by the military court without providing the accused with copies of proceedings and the judgment. Similarly, he claimed, their appeals were dismissed by the military court of appeals without providing them a chance to defend themselves.
The lawyer told the media that all the five persons were civilians and Punjab residents, and they had no connection whatsoever with any banned militant outfit. He however told that the President of Pakistan had also rejected their mercy petitions.
When contacted, Col (r) Inam-ur-Rahim advocate, Lahore High Court Bar Association Rawalpindi (LHCBAR) Coordinator for missing persons, told that initially these persons went missing on July 25, 2013 and their parents did not know about their whereabouts. He added that the security agencies rounded up two brothers Ehsan Azeem and Nauman Azeem from Wah Cannt on July 25, 2013. Later, their mother Sajida Parvin approached Supreme Court for justice. The court directed a sessions judge of Rawalpindi to probe into the matter.
Interestingly, Col Inam, said that Nauman was set free who told that he was detained by security agencies. He said that later it came to light that his brother Ehsan was languishing at Kot Lakhpat Jail of Lahore with four others facing death sentence. On a writ petition, filed by mother of two missing brothers, LHC Rawalpindi Bench Registry directed the military authorities to provide these persons with copies of court proceedings and judgment.
At that time, he said, a military representative appeared before the LHC Rawalpindi Bench Registry and submitted a reply informing the court that military court dismissed appeals of these five accused. On this, the LHC Rawalpindi Bench Registry asked the military authorities again to give copies of proceeding and judgment to these people but the orders were not obeyed by military authorities, Inam added.
“All these five men were not tried fairly and even lawyer was not provided to them. This is clear cut violation of Article 10-A of the constitution,” he said. He said that as per military representative claim that these five persons were facing murder charges; the military court could not try them as they were civilians.