In a significant ruling, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has declared military trials of civilians as unconstitutional, providing relief to numerous individuals who were on trial for their involvement in protests that erupted following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The government had previously announced its intention to employ military courts to try these suspects, causing concerns about the fairness of the legal process.
The Supreme Court issued a short order in which it stated that proceedings conducted under the Army Act would have no legal effect. Consequently, the trials of approximately 103 people will now be shifted to civilian criminal courts.
These individuals had been in custody since May in connection with the protests. Aitzaz Ahsan, a prominent lawyer and former minister who acted as a petitioner in the case, expressed his satisfaction with the court’s decision, regarding it as a victory for democracy.
The protests in question were a response to the brief arrest of Imran Khan, during which hundreds of his supporters broke into military and government installations. Some of the protesters even set fire to the house of a general. Imran Khan had accused the military of being behind an attempt to assassinate him, an accusation that the military denied. Instead, they asserted that the attacks on their bases were planned and ordered by leaders of Khan’s political party with the aim of inciting political unrest and pushing for early elections.
The decision to employ military courts in these cases was made during the tenure of Imran Khan’s rival, Shehbaz Sharif, who completed his term in August. He handed over the reins to a caretaker government tasked with overseeing an election scheduled for January.
Critics of military trials had previously raised concerns about the differing standards of evidence and due process compared to regular civilian courts. Pakistan’s Army Act of 1952 originally established military courts with the primary purpose of trying members of the military or individuals deemed enemies of the state, operating under a distinct legal framework.
This landmark ruling by Pakistan’s Supreme Court reinforces the principle of civilian justice for non-military defendants and ensures that their cases will be heard in accordance with established legal procedures, marking a significant step in upholding democratic values within the country.
Sources By Agencies