Home South Asia Pakistan Pakistan military sets high standards for other institutions to follow

Pakistan military sets high standards for other institutions to follow

The decision to sentence top-tier military officials has come at a time when the political leadership of PPP and PML-N are facing serious corruption charges but instead of coming clean, they are trying to take legal cover. Also, the development has emerged when the federal government has filed presidential references against judges over non-disclosure of their spouses’ foreign properties in their wealth statements.

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News Desk |

Pakistan Army has set a high standard for all the other institutions to follow by awarding death sentence to a retired brigadier while handing down 14-year rigorous imprisonment to a three-star retired general on charges of espionage and leaking “sensitive information” to foreign agencies.

Also, the field general courts-martial has awarded death sentence to a civilian doctor associated with a “sensitive organization” on similar charges.

The experts said that there was no proper accountability in the political parties as well as other institutions.

According to a brief statement of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa endorsed the punishment to the officers on the charges of “espionage and leaking of sensitive information to foreign agencies prejudice to national security”.

The officers — identified by the military’s media wing as Lieutenant General (retd) Javed Iqbal, Brigadier (retd) Raja Rizwan and Doctor Wasim Akram (a civilian doctor) — were tried under the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act by separate field general courts martial in separate cases.

Lt Gen (retd) Iqbal has been awarded 14 years rigorous imprisonment, while Brigadier (retd) Rizwan has been handed down the death sentence. Doctor Akram, who, according to the ISPR, was employed at a sensitive organization, has also been awarded the death penalty.

Read more: NAB starts corruption inquiry against four former senior military officers

Individuals, both in uniform and civilian government positions, are under obligation not to pass on secret information under the Official Secrets Act. Violation of the act is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

The ISPR did not disclose the exact nature of espionage the officers were involved in, the Express Tribune reported, but certain reports suggest that they had passed on sensitive information to the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Will political parties banish ‘corrupt’ leaders?

The development has come at a point when the political leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) are facing serious corruption charges but instead of coming clean, they are trying to take legal cover.

The field general courts-martial has awarded death sentence to a civilian doctor associated with a “sensitive organization” on similar charges.

Political analysts said that there is no real discussion over the facts of the cases as the Sharif and Zardari families are trying their best to hide behind the legal aspects of corruption references. They said that the PPP and PML-N were being controlled by the Sharif and Zardari families and the parties were not acting as political institutions.

While giving a reference to political parties in the west and the way they function, they said, the parties disassociate from the leaders who face tiniest of the corruption charges or do things that do not go well with people. “Who is standing with Theresa May after Brexit,” an analyst questioned, adding that the parties are not person specific rather are being run as institutions.

Read more: Military Courts in Pakistan: Why and Why not?

A prominent political commentator, who wished not to be named, said that no other institution is comparably even close to Pakistan army in making sure that the institutional discipline standards are being met. In last couple of years, he said, roughly 400 officials of the armed forces have been punished.

At the moment, he said, the PML-N and other parties as well as lawyers’ bodies have shown support to judges and indicated that they will convert the scenario into lawyers’ movement, just like one during Musharraf’s rule.

Judges’ trial

The decision to sentence military officials has come at a time when the federal government has filed presidential references against Supreme Court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Sindh High Court judge Justice K K Agha over non-disclosure of their spouses’ foreign properties in their wealth statements.

The PPP and PML-N were being controlled by the Sharif and Zardari families and the parties were not acting as political institutions.

While commenting on Justice Isa’s letter to the president seeking copy of the reference, the analysts believe that the judge has tried to politicize the matter rather facing it before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). The political commentators said that the judge was not supposed to write to the president instead he should have asked the SJC to provide the same.

“The judge had turned it into a political battle by writing the letter to the president,” one of the analysts said. The SJC – a constitutional body tasked with scrutinizing the conduct of superior court judges – has issued a notice to AGP in order to obtain his legal assistance in deciding the maintainability of references.

Read more: Military courts and hypocrisy of politicians – Ikram Sehgal

After AGP’s legal assistance, the legal experts said, the council may issue show-cause notices to the judges with directions to submit their reply within a specified time period. The SJC can initiate trial if the replies are not satisfactory.

According to Rule 10(2) of SJC Procedure, Inquiry, 2005, “The council may require the AGP or any other counsel to appear and assist the council in relation to smooth and efficient conduct of its proceedings.” The SJC is the only forum for initiating action against judges over misconduct. It consists of five top judges. Composition of the SJC will be very important in this matter.

Currently, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who is retiring in December, is the chairman of the council. Other members are: Justice Gulzar Ahmad, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Chief Justice Sindh High Court Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and Chief Justice Peshawar High Court Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth.

The political commentators said that the judge was not supposed to write to the president instead he should have asked the SJC to provide the same.

Legal experts say the addition of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed as SJC member will be significant as “he is going to retire in August”. Justice Gulzar is said to be the future chief justice of Pakistan.

Read more: Pakistan: Will military courts get an extension?

Reference against ex-CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry

Previously, in 2007, President Musharraf had, on the recommendation of the then Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, filed a reference of misconduct against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. It was related to alleged influence peddling by the Chief Justice for his son Arsallan Iftikhar who entered civil services of Pakistan through a very twisted route and was promoted at exceptional speed.

Supreme Judicial Council had taken up the matter but it remained inconclusive when lawyers movement broke out and a suspended Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, was restored by the full bench of Supreme Court. However, privately all legal experts agreed that reference were properly filed and if Supreme Judicial Council had heard the case then Iftikhar Chaudhry could not have explained his position.

The experts said that there was no proper accountability in the political parties as well as other institutions. On the other hand, the military has sent a clear message to all the institutions that culpability should be the prime importance of the institutions. This resonates with army chief’s earlier slogan calling for “across the board accountability”.

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