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Police empowered to register case against serving army officials: SC

Pakistan on 12 July 2013
Location : Islamabad, Pakistan | Source : Daily Times. Image Source: Flickr Users Koshy Koshy, Isafmedia

ISLAMABAD: In response to the Military Intelligence (MI)’s objection over the superior courts as well as the police’s jurisdiction to proceed against a serving army officer, Supreme Court’s Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan has made it clear that the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc) or any other law does not restrict police from registering cases against serving armed forces officers.

A two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Jawwad S Kahwaja, made the observation while hearing the petition filed by Abida Malik whose husband Tasif Ali went missing on November 23, 2011 from the Sadiqabad police precinct in Rawalpindi. During the hearing, Ibrahim Satti, the counsel for MI, contended before the bench that the armed forces’ officials were under oath not only to defend the constitution but also to maintain true allegiance to Pakistan. He also stated that former army chief Pervez Musharraf’s oath was not under the constitution.

Satti said that laws related to the Pakistan Army could not be declared as void by the apex court on the basis of fundamental rights. He said actions taken by the armed forced were protected under the constitution and claimed that the armed forces had a special status in the constitution. Upon this, Justice Khawaja remarked that every citizen had a special status in the constitution and everyone was loyal to the state. The counsel said that more than 500 suicide attacks were carried out in the country. Justice Jawwad asked him “I want to know who are these persons (suicide bombers), as I think a huge amount is being spent on intelligence agencies in this regard.” Satti said that these suicide bombers might be the missing persons.

He also referred to the Article 63(1) G, which says that a person would be disqualified from the membership of the national or provincial assembly if he criticises the army and higher judiciary, defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the armed forces of Pakistan. The counsel contended that applications about the missing persons in the commission and the Supreme Court were ridiculing the army. The armed forces’ officials, he added, were protecting the borders of the country. Upon this, the court told him that they were being paid for this duty. 

Justice Khawaja also said that the court was more concerned about the integrity of the Pakistan Army; therefore, it had expressed concern over the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances in Islamabad, which raised the issue of the detention of one missing person by spy agencies. “How can we allow UN office to malign our intelligence agencies, therefore we have taken this matter seriously,” he remarked. The hearing of the case was adjourned until today (Friday) and the counsel for the MI would continue his arguments. Likewise, Attorney General of Pakistan Muneer A Malik will also submit his formulations about this law point. 

The court also observed that it is an important question and in this case it would decide what the law says about the jurisdiction of apex court as well as police regarding armed forces’ officials. Meanwhile, touching scenes were witnessed in the courtroom when a visitor revealed the miserable condition of his brother who has been detained in internment centre of Lakki Marwat. Ziaullah told the bench that his detained brother Safiullah had informed him that they were given only one bread (roti) a day. “After seeing my brother in a miserable condition, I wish I had not met him,” he added. Upon this, Justice Ejaz Afzal asked Additional Attorney General of Pakistan Tariq Khosa why do they don’t ask the internment centres’ authorities to abide by the law as it is their duty to provide basic facilities to the detainees under the law.

The court hinted at passing an order for the production of the detained people before the bench so it could examine their condition and issue appropriate order. It also sought a comprehensive plan from the federal government about missing persons being detained in internment centres, on July 17.

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