By Rehan Piracha
The prison authorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have declined to send appeals of five death-row prisoners convicted by military courts to the Supreme Court and their execution is likely to go ahead without them being able to exercise their right of appeal, said Peshawar High Court lawyer and human rights activist Shabbir Hussain Gigyani while speaking to Voicepk.net.
Gigyani said that the condemned prisoners including Payo Jan, son of Asal Khan; Rehmat, son of Esmail; Khial Jan, son of Sial Jan; Bakht Wali, son of Ahmed Jan, and Zahid, son of Kitab Shah – were convicted by the military courts in 2016 and their appeal against conviction was dismissed by the Peshawar High Court in 2017.
“Unfortunately, these death-row prisoners in the Central Jail, Peshawar, did not even know that their appeals in the Peshawar High Court were dismissed five years ago and their cases came to light only when the KP Home Department wrote to the registrars of the Supreme Court and PHC to seek information about any pending appeals of eight condemned prisoners in Kohat jail convicted by military courts after their mercy petitions were rejected by President Arif Alvi in December 2022,” Gigyani said.
In the letter on December 22, the KP Home Dept requested the registrars to intimate whether any appeal of the condemned prisoners was pending or not so that their date of execution could be fixed.
“As per the jail manual, the prison authorities are to send an appeal of any condemned prisoner to the Supreme Court within 30 days after a high court dismisses their appeal,”
However, the prison authorities of Peshawar Central Jail chose not to send appeals of these military court convicts to the apex court in the last six years, he added.
The death-row convicts were transferred to the prison from the detention centre in 2020. Gigyani said he prepared appeals of the convicts as their pro bono counsel and sent them to the prison authorities for onward submission to the Supreme Court.
“Unfortunately, the prison authorities returned the appeals to me after a month’s time saying that they do not have the authority to submit appeals for convicts of military courts to the Supreme Court,” he said.
The activist lawyer said the only option left for the death-row convicts was to approach the Supreme Court directly but it would be difficult to justify the inordinate delay in filing the appeal before the apex court.
“The Supreme Court has usually condoned the delay for up to four years in the filing of appeals of condemned prisoners sent through the prison authorities and it has also appointed state counsels for such prisoners if they do not have legal representation,” he pointed out.
However, a private counsel for a condemned prisoner might have a hard time explaining the reasons why his client chose to delay the filing of an appeal for over six years, he added.
Who are the death-row convicts?
According to the International Commission of Jurists, the military courts convicted 641 people in a period of four years. Payo Jan, said to be a member of Lashkar-e-Islam, was charged with involvement in attacking the armed forces of Pakistan. He was awarded death sentence by a military court on November 22, 2016.
Rehmat Ullah, said to be a member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, was charged in connection with an attack leading to the death of Senior Superintendent of Police Muhammad Hilal Khan, Colonel Mustafa Jamal, and Captain Ishfaq. A military court sentenced him to death May 3, 2016.
Khial Jan, said to be a member of Lashkar-e-Islam, was charged with attacks on the armed forces of Pakistan. He was sentenced to death by a military court on November 22, 2016.
Bakht Wali, said to be a member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, was charged with involvement in attacking the armed forces of Pakistan. He was awarded death sentence on November 7, 2016.
Zahid Khan, said to be a member of Lashkar-e-Islam, was also charged with attacking the armed forces of Pakistan. A military court sentenced him to death on November 7, 2016.