PHC questions how civilian can be tried under Official Secrets Act

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday raised serious questions as how civilian cases could be tried under the Official Secrets Act 1923.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim and Justice Sahabzada Asadullah was hearing a plea filed against the decision to try citizens arrested in relation to vandalism witnessed on May 9 and 10 in military courts.

Petitioner’s lawyer Shah Faisal Itmankhel informed that seven suspects arrested after incidents of May 9 and 10 have been handed over to the military. He contended that civilian cases cannot be tried in military courts after the 23rd Amendment.

Justice Ibrahim observed that under the Official Secrets Act, a court martial is carried out. “How can civilian cases be tried under the Official Secrets Act? Interpretation of the Constitution of Pakistan is needed,” he remarked.

AAG Daniyal Chamkani said that the Army Act was not mentioned in the FIR. The district public prosecutor has given his opinion on this matter, he added.

At this, the court asked the counsels to prepare arguments and adjourned the hearing till June 13.

A day prior, the military’s top brass announced the decision to tighten the noose around the “planners and masterminds” of those who mounted “the hate ripened and politically driven rebellion against the state and state institutions”.

Unlike in the past, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued an unusually detailed statement focusing mostly on the events that unfolded after the May 9 violent protests.

The most significant part of the statement was that the top military brass hinted at taking legal action against the leadership of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

“It has been further stressed that, while the legal trials of perpetrators and instigators have commenced, it is time that noose of law is also tightened around the planners and masterminds who mounted the hate ripened and politically driven rebellion against the state and state institutions to achieve their nefarious design of creating chaos in the country,” according to the military’s media wing.

Military’s top commanders also specified that endeavours by any quarter to create obstructions and stymie the conclusive defeat of ill design of inimical forces will be dealt with iron hands.

On May 9 and 10, the country witnessed chaos and rioting as scores took to the streets in retaliation to the PTI chief’s arrest, which was declared “illegal” two days later by the Supreme Court.

Protestors blocked main thoroughfares across the country, attacked Jinnah House, which serves as the residence of the Lahore Corps Commander, as well as the gates of the military’s General Headquarters (GHQ) during the mayhem.

The government in turn responded by shutting off mobile internet services and restricting public access to information while incidents of law enforcement authorities opening fire on protestors were reported in some parts of the country.

 

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