The Supreme Court had on October 23 declared the trial of civilians in military courts as “null and void” and ordered authorities to conduct the hearing of the cases of former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan’s supporters arrested for their involvement in the May 9 violent protests in ordinary criminal courts.
“In its intra-court appeal, the Ministry of Defence urged the apex court to revoke the October 23 decision and restore the sections of the Official Secrets Act that were declared illegal by the bench. It also urges the Supreme Court to restore Section 59(4) of the Army Act,” Geo News reported.
The petition also warned that declaring some sections of the Army Act and Official Secrets Act illegal would harm the country, it said.
In its ruling, the five-member bench of the Supreme Court had held that 103 persons and others who may be placed in relation to the events arising from May 9 and 10 could be tried by criminal courts established under the ordinary or special law of the land.
Hundreds of Khan’s supporters had stormed military and government installations, and even torched a general’s house, following the former prime minister’s brief arrest by the Punjab Rangers on May 9.
The defence ministry’s plea comes a day after the caretaker Sindh government and Shuhada Forum, Balochistan, an NGO working to provide legal and financial support, counselling services, and recognition to the martyrs and victims of terrorism in Balochistan province, had separately requested the Supreme Court on Thursday to set aside its judgment declaring unconstitutional the trials of civilians in military courts.
The Sindh chief secretary filed an appeal against the order passed by the apex court in the petitions, challenging the trial of civilians in military courts.
The caretaker provincial government prayed to the apex court to allow its appeal against the October 23 short order and further prayed to the court to suspend the operation of the short order till the appeal is pending.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and others have approached the top court against the military trials on the grounds that they lack transparency.
The decision to use military courts was taken by the government of Shehbaz Sharif, who has since completed his term in August and handed over to a caretaker government that will oversee an election slated for February 8.
Incidentally, on November 15, scores of senators from three major political parties in Pakistan staged a protest in the Senate against the hasty passage of a resolution that rejected the Supreme Court’s verdict on military courts and called for its immediate withdrawal.