June 8, 2023
A total of 51 people, who were allegedly involved in attacking military buildings and monuments on May 9, have been handed over by the police to the military for their trial under the Pakistan Army Act 1952 and Official Secrets Act 1923 in military courts. Furthermore, the Lahore Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) handed over 16 persons to a commanding officer on May 25. 23-year-old Ahmed* is one of these 16 detainees. His father, Junaid, told Voicepk.net that he has not had any contact with his son since he was surrendered to the military on May 25.
“We have been told nothing about where he is being detained, what state he is in, what stage the investigation is at, whether he was given the right to counsel or even told of this right,” he said. “In the presence of Article 10A, the investigation is proceeding on illegal footing.”
He stated that he had looked into other similar cases, he noted a ‘stereotype method’ for these trials.
“They extract the confessions they want and record this confession before a magistrate as well.”
Voicepk.net contacted the families of several other civilians being tried in military courts. Although declining to speak on camera, they confirmed that they have yet to speak to any of the detainees.
Junaid said that Ahmed was detained by police on May 15, and then brought to court but was not even allowed to step foot in the courtroom.
“They brought him [to the court] during late hours and he remained in the police van. The judge was in her chambers, she was not even in the courtroom. A reader handed her a list of people for an identity parade. This was all surprising to me,” he recalled. “I went to the court to approve my power of attorney, so that if [my son] is given judicial remand, we can post his bail. I was running to and fro the courts and the prison van, like a shuttlecock.”
He further explained that his son had no affiliation with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and that he had no intentions of violence on May 9.
“As time goes by, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a trap was set. It was a mistake of the PTI’s secondary leadership to call for a peaceful protest at [the Jinnah House]. They should have remained on the outskirts of Cantt,” he posited. “The ones conducting the investigation for military court trials, they should fear God. What are we doing to our [coming] generation? They are Pakistani.”
He recalled that his son told him that the police had tortured him as well as others within their custody.
“He was in police custody from May 15 to 17. When I met him in the prison van for all of 20, 25 minutes, he cried that the CCPO Lahore stood and watched him being tortured on his orders. They beat him all through the night, and were trying to pass him off as one of the leaders of the mob,” he recounted. “My son said that he had told [the police] that he went there in his individual capacity and chanted slogans with a flag in hand.”
According to Col. (Retd.) Inaam-ur-Raheem, who served in the Judge Advocate General Branch of the Pakistan Army, the accused has the right to legal counsel of their choice under the Army Act. If a lawyer is not provided to the accused, the trial can be declared illegal.
“When a case is expected to be ultimately tried by the Army, the Army itself will take over the investigation. What we refer to as a challan in civil courts is known as a summary of evidence in the Army. When the investigation is completed, the summary of evidence is recorded and is given alongwith the charge sheet to the accused 24 hours before the trial,” he explained. “Once those 24 hours have lapsed, the accused is brought before the military court. However, the accused is granted two rights under the Army Act: that they can seek an adjournment and to engage a counsel of their own choice. If he is unable to engage a counsel, the Army will provide him one, and then the trial will commence.”
Voicepk.net reached out to a civilian military court convict, who narrated his ordeal as follows:
“I was blindfolded every time I was brought before the military court so I could not see anything. I was provided by a lawyer appointed by the military, who was also a soldier. Any time I would meet him, they would put a black cloth over my head. My lawyer never once asked me what I had been accused of or what sort of evidence I was in possession of that would prove my innocence.
One day, my lawyer took my thumbprints on a piece of paper. I was blindfolded so I could not see what the paper read. I asked him to tell me what was written on it but never got an answer.
A few days later, I was sentenced to seven years in prison. The judge announced that I had confessed to my crime as I put my thumbprints on the confession statement.”
The convict appealed his sentence in the Peshawar High Court (PHC). On June 16, 2020, then Chief Justice of the PHC Waqar Ahmad Seth set aside the military court conviction of his as well as over 200 other individuals, however the Supreme Court issued a stay order in the verdict which remains till date.
National and global human rights organizations have condemned the decision to try civilians in military courts, as they abrogate Article 10A of the Constitution of Pakistan which guarantees the right to fair trial.
Ahmed’s father, who is also a lawyer, believes that the judiciary is his last hope. He told Voicepk.net that he will approach the Supreme Court against the trial of civilians in military courts.
“The entire matter has yet to reach any legal forum, but I am considering that this should be so. I will not be able to face my son if I sit around and do nothing. I am in shock, I am in pain. I have to do something,” he said. “I am also strongly considering leaving this country. I had the choice to do so before, and I decided that I will never leave the country. But now I am considering this very seriously, and this may be my last attempt.”
He also added that he hopes that the Supreme Court will understand the gravity of the situation and initiate an injury into the jurisdiction of military courts.
“If I am unable to get any relief, then I have no reason to stay in this country. I will have no choice but to wait for my son’s return.”
According to provisions contained in the Pakistan Army Act 1952, an appeal against a military court convict