Families demand CJP to form larger bench to hear case of civilian prisoners’ trial in military courts

They also appeal to Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir to show compassion as all these detainees are law-abiding citizens

ISLAMABAD  -  Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and family members of those individuals detained by military for their alleged involvement in May 9 violence on Wednesday demanded of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP ) Qazi Faez Esa to immediately constitute a larger bench to hear review appeals against the annulment of trials of civilians in military courts.

They also appealed to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir to show compassion as all these detainees are law-abiding citizens. Addressing a press conference along with PTI Information Secretary Raoof Hasan, Barrister Abuzar Salman Niazi and other party leaders, family members of those detainees who have been in military custody for nearly a year shared their “ordeal” with the media.

PTI senior leader Ali Muhammad Khan said that majority of the detainees were well-educated and sole bread earners of their respective families but they were “unjustly implicated in false and fabricated cases.” “This seems nothing but a war of ego,” he added. Ali Muhammad, who heads the PTI prisoners committee, stated that all legal fraternity irrespective of political affiliation were unanimous on the point that civilian trials in military courts were unconstitutional and unlawful. The PTI leader demanded the CJP to form a larger bench to decide whether cases of these prisoners could have been tried in the military courts in order to ensure early release of these citizens. He underlined that the state should treat these detainees with sympathy and pay serious attention to their issue because they are not terrorists, insisting that the state’s positive behaviour even could bring the hardcore people into the mainstream. Ali Muhammad stressed the need that the accused should be given a chance to prove their innocence and should not push against the wall. He reiterated his party’s demand of judicial inquiry into the May 9 episode to bring the truth before the nation.

The PTI leader recalled that his party always stood firmly with the judiciary and it would never compromise on judicial independence, which was evident even in the case of six judges’ letter. Speaking on the occasion, Barrister Salman Niazi said that the trial of civilians in military courts was violative to the Article 175 of the constitution as the same institution was working as judge, jury and executive simultaneously so how it could do justice. He asserted that civilians should be tried in civilian courts because a concept of separation was given in constitution or else it would lead to constitutional crisis. Abuzar reminded that military courts gave verdicts against civilians within four days, which was unprecedented and how it could be called a fair trial. He said the government had to make special time-bound constitutional amendments to try banned TTP terrorists in military courts and now the PTI young workers were being tried unlawfully in the military courts despite the expiry of constitutional amendment.

Senior lawyer pointed out that the incumbent CJP’s legacy was questionable due to his decision of depriving PTI of its electoral symbol ‘bat.’ If the chief justice wanted to celebrate his legacy, he must have to sit in the larger bench to do justice with the “unlawful” detained PTI people, he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Sidra Murtaza, whose brother was in military custody, claimed her family members have been going through an ordeal since the detention of her brother in May 9 related incidents.

She demanded of the apex court to form a larger bench to hear the case of the civilians being tried in military courts, claiming family members of these individuals had suffered from various ailments and some even passed away due to mental stress and agony.

She noted that after the decision from the military courts, they did not know where to go for appeal against the verdict, adding that all the detained civilians were well-educated youth and they had nothing to do with terrorists.

Sidra urged CJP and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir to meet these prisoners as they were patriotic Pakistanis and detained under some misunderstanding as they did not commit any wrong. “This is because the country’s constitution guaranteed its citizens the right of a peaceful protest,” she added.

Other family members were of the views that their loved ones should be tried in civilian courts and must be given full chance of fair trial. In military courts, they were being subjected to mental torture to make them patients because they were deprived of all prisoners’ rights, they alleged.

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