According to media reports, running wild on internet, Brig. Raja Rizwan (retd) was hanged to death on Saturday. Mr. Rizwan, a former senior army officer who held important positions during his career, was convicted of spying for a foreign intelligence agency.
The reports of his hanging could not be independently verified. But WhatsApp is alive with comments and blogs from different commentators. Sources however claim that nothing final can be said until the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) issues a formal statement on the matter.
Army’s swift justice system is demonstrative of the fact that it is an organized institution where soldiers or officers do not have to wait endlessly to get the justice or punishment they deserve. This explains the internal discipline and control. Experts believe that civilian institutions need to learn from the armed forces in order to restore public confidence in civilian courts and political processes.
Cases of murder, gang rape, serious fraud and abuse of public office keep lingering in courts for years and decades often losing all initial meaning and then ending without convictions – when public has forgotten about these cases. Civilian Court system thus fails to offer any effective deterrence against serious crime, corruption and abuse of public office.
On May 31st this year, DG ISPR told media that Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa had endorsed punishment to two senior retired army officers and one civil officer “on the charges of espionage/ leakage of sensitive information to foreign agencies prejudice to the national security”.
Three officers sentenced on 30 May 2019 have been handed over to civil jail authorities. Earlier, convicted had been immediately arrested upon intelligence about their involvement and remained under military custody throughout their respective trial.
— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) June 1, 2019
Gen. Ghafoor explained that “the officers were tried under Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and Official Secret Act by separate Field General Court Martial (FGCM) for separate cases”.
The following details, quoted verbatim, list the names of the three individuals and the punishment accorded to them:
Retired Lieutenant General Javed Iqbal — awarded 14 years rigorous imprisonment Retired Brigadier Raja Rizwan — awarded death sentence Doctor Wasim Akram (Employed at Sensitive Organisation) — awarded death sentence.
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ISPR also released a video statement of Major General Asif Ghafoor confirming the arrest of the two officers and their court-martial. “Reports started circulating in the media that two senior army officers were under arrest. Yes, they are. There are two officers who are under military custody on the charges of espionage,” the ISPR director general confirmed in the video. “The Army Chief has ordered a field general court-martial which is under process,” he added.
Maj Gen Ghafoor had said that both were separate cases and not linked to one another in any way “and there is no network as such”. It is pertinent to mention here that around 400 officers of every rank have been given various punishments, including dismissal from service, during the last two years.
Earlier in February, DG ISPR had said that the arrests of the accused officers indicated a robust accountability system in place in the armed forces. The way Pakistan army arrested its officers and ensured due process of law to convict them has established the fact that nobody is above the strict army rules in the institutions.
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Analysts believe that such precedents set by the army have questioned the credibility of Pakistan’s criminal justice system. As a matter of fact, no politically powerful person in Pakistan’s history has ever been punished in a court of law in a corruption case; convictions even if obtained in lower courts are almost always overturned by superior courts.
The system simply does not have the will to punish powerful people- they argue. In the case of Nawaz Sharif powerful sections of media, doctors and other actors were seen quite active behind the scenes and manufactured a case to pressurize Prime Minister Imran Khan to let Nawaz go to London under a medical emergency, political commentators inform GVS.