November 10th, 2021
By Munizae Jahangir
“What right does the government have to hold negotiations with the TTP when it is our children who were killed in the APS attack?” cried a visibly-distraught mother, who stood outside the Supreme Court, after Wednesday’s proceedings amid clamouring reporters, as the Prime Minister made a quick exit. Prime Minister Imran Khan had been summoned by the Chief Justice on Wednesday, November 10 – a key development in the court case.
Shahana Khan sobbed profusely as she gripped the picture of her 15-year-old son Asfand Khan now remembered as a martyr in the 2016 terrorist attack.
She condemned the government and said that the parents of the APS children did not want the government to give any amnesty to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan as it would only serve to open a door to more terrorism.
But, she said, the SC proceedings had given some hope of justice.
“We are relieved that the Chief Justice understands our agony,” she said. “After he got to know that we had come to him after exhausting all available avenues, he listened to all the parents’ grievances very patiently.”
She added that during the proceedings the CJ had directed PM Imran Khan to submit a report explaining what action the government had taken till now against those whose names the parents had submitted to the court last time.
“We had asked the CJ to take action against these senior officials as our children were martyred because of their negligence by not taking timely actions,” she said. Shahana added that some of the officials even had knowledge of the imminent attack but did nothing to preempt it. The parents expressed the hope that all of these former military officials and government leaders would be summoned to the Supreme Court as they had disregarded any responsibility previously.
Asfand Khan’s mother said that she would not rest till she got justice for her son.
“I imagine that as they shot at him, my son was telling the terrorists that his mother would not leave them unpunished,” she broke down. “I won’t rest till all those responsible for my son’s death are punished.”
Other parents also expressed strong opposition to the recently announced truce between the government and the TTP.
Muhammad Amin, whose 20-year-old son Ishaq Amin was martyred in the attack, expressed his disappointment with the government’s decision to hold negotiations with TTP. His other son, Amir Amin, who was 18 at the time, was wounded in the attack and has still not fully recovered from the trauma – both physically and psychologically.
“Once before we were fooled by the government when they told us that TTP’s Ihsanullah Ihsan had supposedly ‘escaped’ that too from military custody,” he said. “PM Imran had committed to fighting our case seven years ago. Today we saw him (Imran Khan) appear before the court after seven whole years, and we realized that our government could do nothing to put out our miseries.”
Amin said that the parents had now pinned their last hopes on the Chief Justice, expressing the hope for justice. The former CJP Saqib Nisar had also heard their case but had gone on leave for four weeks’ prior to his retirement.
Govt to submit report within four weeks
Meanwhile in Wednesday’s hearing, the Supreme Court directed the federal government to submit a progress report on the action taken against senior military personnel and government leaders for negligence in the Army Public School massacre.
The court direction came on a petition by parents of the martyred children seeking registration of cases against then military chief Gen (r) Raheel Sharif, and then Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt-Gen (r) Zaheer-ul-Islam. The parents had also sought lodging of cases against former interior minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan and former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervez Khattak. The petition was heard by a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed. Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan were the other members of the bench.
On the onset of the hearing, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed showed his displeasure to the attorney general stating that it was the responsibility of the government to protect the people of Pakistan, and that they could not allow children being killed in schools.
He said that while those at lower levels had been caught, none of the higher ups who had been responsible for the attack had been arrested or confronted.
PM in court
The bench summoned Prime Minister Imran Khan to the court after the attorney general informed the court that he had not communicated the court order to him.
The Prime Minister reached the court after a delay two hours. He told the court that he had met the parents several times and the government had already given them due compensation. Upon this, the Chief Justice remarked that the parents wanted to return the government compensation.
Negotiations with TTP
Meanwhile, the ongoing negotiations with the TTP were also mentioned in the courtroom. Justice Qazi Amin remarked that the country had the sixth biggest army, yet the government was about to sign the instrument of surrender again through these negotiations.
The Chief Justice told the Prime Minister that 147 children had died that day but there had been no one to protect them. People at the helm of power had completed their terms and had left their posts with all the benefits; the country had a premier intelligence agency but no one seemed to know anything about the massacre.
Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan referring to the report made by Peshawar High Court on APS tragedy remarked that despite Peshawar being on the frontline, no steps were taken for protection of soft targets. He said the government needed to look into those responsible for the tragedy.
Justice Ijaz also said that there was a massive failure on part of people responsible for providing security to the people of Pakistan. These people need to be identified, he said.
When asked by the CJP about what actions has the government taken to provide security to the people of Pakistan after the APS attack.
No holy cows: PM
Prime Minister Imran said he had opposed Pakistan’s involvement in the US war on terror during former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s rule. He said Pakistan would have to contend with security issues until the Afghanistan situation settled down.
He said since the Taliban took over power in Afghanistan in August, elements from the militant Islamic State group, TTP and Baloch separatists had arrived in Pakistan. Such elements had also gone underground during the Afghanistan evacuation via Pakistan, he added. “All of our security agencies are taking steps to deal with the possible threats,” the premier told the court.
Prime Minister Imran said there were no “holy cows” among the names provided by the parents of the APS attack victims, seeking action against them. “You issue the orders and we will take action,” he told the bench.
The attorney general requested the court and challenged people in the court room if they could pin point any name in Peshawar High Court’s report that they did not look into. He said the government could not lodge an FIR on then Prime Minister based on morality alone. The CJP replied that the court was not demanding an FIR from the government. Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan added that the court wanted the government to identify the people responsible for the negligence.
The court directed the government to submit its report within two weeks, but the attorney general requested additional time. Accepting the plea, the Supreme Court directed that federal government file a detailed progress report, signed by the Prime Minister, to the court in four weeks.
Addressing reporters outside the Supreme Court, Federal Minister for Information Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said Prime Minister Imran Khan by appearing in the Supreme Court on a short notice once again proved that he believed in the rule of law and the Constitution and respected the judiciary.
Talking to media persons outside the Supreme Court along with Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, he said Imran Khan complied with the court order as enforcement of the rule of law and constitution was an important part of PTI’s manifesto.
Talking about the APS tragedy, Fawad said every citizen of Pakistan was saddened by the tragic incident. He said at that time PML-N was in power at the time of APS tragedy and it would have been very easy for the present regime to blame the previous government but it did not do so.
He said as directed by the Supreme Court, the report will be submitted to the Supreme Court in four weeks. He said all national institutions including administration, judiciary and other institutions have to fulfill their responsibilities.