PHC suspends death sentence of military court convict

PESHAWAR: The execution of a condemned inmate, sentenced to death by a military court, was suspended on Tuesday after his family challenged his conviction, claiming that he was not given a chance to defend himself.

A two-member division bench of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), comprising Justice Qalandar Ali Khan and Justice Abdul Shakoor, suspended the sentence after it heard the initial arguments of Fazal-e-Moola, who had filed the petition on behalf of his client Gul Muhammad Khan.

Gul had contended that his brother Bakht Muhammad Khan had been convicted and sentenced to death by a military court without observing the due process of law and providing an opportunity to defend himself against the charges.

The writ petition, which was also supported by an affidavit by the brother of the convict, claimed that Bakht had travelled to Karachi seeking employment. But then his family did not hear from him for the next five years and that they did not know where he was during this period.

But recently, Bakht’s family learnt that he was being held in the Kohat internment centre after being sentenced to death by a military court over his terror involvement.

In light of the writ petition and submission of the petitioner’s counsel, the court admitted the case for regular hearing and issued notices to the respondents including the Interior secretary, Kohat internment centre in charge and president of the military court.

The PHC bench further ordered that until a final judgment in the case is pronounced, his death sentence shall remain suspended.

On May 5, 2018, the Chief of Army Staff had confirmed the death sentence of Bakht and 10 others. They had been convicted of terrorism by a military court.

According to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) — the media wing of the military, the convict was a member of a proscribed organisation and had been charged with involvement in the killing of a civilian and attacking military personnel which resulted in the death of two soldiers and injuries to two others.

The ISPR claimed that the convict had confessed his offences before a judicial magistrate and the trial court thus sentenced him to death.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2018.