Military courts let 20 May 9 suspects walk free before Eid

In Local
April 08, 2024


A total of 20 suspects, who were tried by military courts in connection with the May 9 incidents, have been released following the confirmation of their sentences and subsequent remission of their punishments by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir.

According to a submission made to the Supreme Court, the suspects were released on April 6 and April 7 in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The government has also apprised the SC regarding the release of the individuals.

In its application, the government stated that pursuant to the March 28 order, the military courts were authorised to resume trials and issue sentences for cases involving lesser punishments.

None of the persons have served a full period of one year as the remaining period of their punishment was remitted by the COAS under section 143(1) (i) of the Pakistan Army Act, 1952.

The decision follows a recent ruling by the apex court permitting military courts to announce verdicts for cases where suspects were either acquitted or whose time served exceeded their sentences, thus enabling their release ahead of Eidul Fitr.

Read more: SC forms benches for key cases in next two weeks

The government had pledged that such sentences would be declared, with those facing slightly longer terms potentially being pardoned by General Syed Asim Munir.

According to the list of the 20 released prisoners, all had been sentenced to one year of rigorous imprisonment, with most receiving a reduction of two months from their sentences.

Predominantly originating from Punjab, the majority of the convicts hailed from Rawalpindi, with three from Lahore and five from Gujranwala. Many of them had spent over ten months in detention, except for one individual from Lahore who had been held for nine months and 26 days.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three individuals from Dir and one from Mardan were released after serving one-year sentences imposed by the military courts. Two convicts from Dir had spent more than 10 months in custody, while one from Dir and one from Mardan had been detained for nine months and 23 days and 29 days, respectively.

A six-member larger bench, presided over by Justice Aminuddin Khan, is currently hearing the federal government’s intra-court appeals challenging a previous court ruling that deemed trials of civilians in military courts unconstitutional.

The larger bench is scheduled to reconvene for further hearings during the last week of April.

However, it is pertinent to note that there is a split in legal opinion regarding whether the SC should have provisionally permitted military courts to resume trials and issue verdicts in cases where the punishment is less severe.

Abdul Moiz Jafferii, advocate, asserts that the SC has provided military courts with an undue opportunity at PR by retracting from its actual duty and delaying the further adjudication of this appeal on its merits.

“There is a Supreme Court judgement which declares the trial of civilians unconstitutional by military courts.”

The judgment, he argued, was ignored until the appeal was filed, where the new bench ignored the ignorance and proceeded to suspend it “and then treat the issue as a regular one with unfathomable delays”.

Jafferii further stated that the current narrative portrays those released as if they were held in custody for ten months due to the SC’s actions, rather than the actions of their captors.

“This is a tragic turn of events and the court must look at how it has been pulled into a situation where the process itself is the desired punishment,” he added.

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