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Legal minds weigh in on trial of civilians under Pakistan Army Act

Since the announcement that the May 09 arsonists will be tried under army laws, a debate has ensued among the lawyers and jurists on the legality and reasoning of the move.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been blamed for planning and abetting the protests during which government and military buildings were attacked, however, former prime minister Imran Khan has blamed agencies for the riots.

Top military brass in a statement, issued after the special Corps Commanders Conference (CCC) on Monday, vowed to bring the arsonists, who attacked the civil and military installations, to justice through trial under relevant laws of the country, including the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act.

“Based on the irrefutable evidence collected so far, armed forces are well aware of the planners, instigators, abettors and perpetrators of these attacks, and attempts to create distortions in this regard are absolutely futile,” said Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

The move has been supported by the leaders belonging to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) but constitutional experts are of the view that there is less transparency in trials carried out under the army laws.

SCBA president says civilians should be tried in ATCs

Speaking to Geo News on Tuesday, President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Abid Zuberi said that civilians who damage military installations can be tried under the army act.

Zuberi strongly condemned the attack on the Corps Commander House in Lahore and other military installations across the country, saying those responsible should be severely punished after a fair trial.

“Civilians who damage military installations can be tried under the Army Act. In 2017, the Army Act was amended in this regard,” the legal expert said, adding the Constitution provides every civilian with the right to a fair trial.

“I don’t think the transparent trial of civilians is possible in military courts. The former chief justice of Peshawar High Court, Justice Waqar Seth, declared the sentences given by military courts to be null and void. There are several verdicts of the Supreme Court in which judicial review of the decisions given by military courts has been done.”

Zuberi maintained that civilians should be tried in anti-terrorism courts not in military courts.

Commenting on the development, Former SCBA president and JUI-F lawmaker Kamran Murtaza said, “I was against the military courts earlier, and I am still against it today.”

He endorsed the government’s view that those involved in vandalism should be brought to justice.

“What bad happened on May 9 was very bad but those responsible for this arson should be tried in civil courts.”

Former deputy attorney general Shah Khawar said the PTI’s ideological workers were not involved in violent protests on May 9.

“PTI should not defend those who attacked.”

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