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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

SC orders government to make APS Judicial Commission report public

The Supreme of Pakistan has ordered to make the Army Public School (APS) Judicial Commission Report public. The court also directed the Attorney General of Pakistan to make the government's response to the report public.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday ordered to make the Army Public School (APS) Judicial Commission Report public. The court also directed the Attorney General of Pakistan to make the government’s response to the report public, local media reported on Friday. Legal analysts praised the court’s verdict as it will help people understand as to how this attack was carried out despite the presence of security personnel.

In a horrific attack on Peshawar Army Public School on December 16, 2014, terrorists had killed 131 students and 10 other individuals – making it the most deadly attack in the history of the country. On October 14, 2019, the Supreme Court disposed of a Suo Motu case pertaining to the unfortunate 2014 school carnage after a judicial commission briefing.

Following the application of the APS Martyrs Forum – led by mothers of victims – then CJP Saqib Nisar, who had taken the Suo Motu in April 2018, ordered the formation of a Judicial Commission to probe into the matter in October 2018.

Judicial Commission formed to probe APS tragedy

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) had formed the single-member commission headed by Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan on Oct 12, 2018, on the orders of the Supreme Court. The panel became functional on Oct 19, 2018.

Spokesman for the Commission Imranullah Khan told reporters that the report comprised around 3,000 pages and carried statements of different people and important documents.

He said the probe body had recorded the statements of 132 people and of them, 31 were police and army officials and the rest were witnesses, including injured students and parents of the martyred children.

On July 10, 2020, local media reported that during in-camera proceedings, some parents had requested the commission to summon the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and the then army chief, General Raheel Sharif. However, the request was turned down.

The key army officers, whose statements were recorded by the probe body, included the then Peshawar Corps Commander, Lt-Gen Hidayatur Rehman, the then chairman of Army Public Educational Institutions Board of Governors Brigadier Mudassir Azam, Brigadier Inayatullah of 102 Brigade, HQ-11 Corps, Major Doctor Asim Shehzad of the Army Medical Corps, and Secretary of the BoG Colonel Hazrat Bilal.

Read more: ISPR releases a new song to pay tribute to the APS…

Similarly, the commission recorded statements of some high-ranking police officials, including former provincial police officers Salahuddin Mehsud and Nasir Durrani, then DIG of the counter-terrorism department Mohammad Alam Shinwari, then home secretary Syed Akhtar Ali Shah, the capital city police officer Ijaz Khan, then SP (cantonment) Faisal Shehzad and then SP (City) Mustafa Tanveer, and others.

Who attacked APS?

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Maulana Fazlullah claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that it was in retaliation for Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan.

“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females … we want them to feel the same pain,” Fazlullah said in a video message days after the attack. Fazlullah was later killed in a drone strike carried out by the United States in Afghanistan.

Military courts in the backdrop of APS attack

Military courts were suggested by the political circles after the heinous militant APS attack in 2014. Following the 21st amendment, which was passed by both houses of the parliament on January 6, 2015, after a long debate, MCs were set up getting a green signal from All Parties Conference. A two-year extension was given with the inclusion of the sunset clause when on March 31, 2017, President Mamnoon gave his assent to an amendment in the Constitution granting legal cover to military courts.

According to the Dec 16, 2018, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release, since the establishment of the courts, the federal government had referred 717 cases to them. Five forty-six (546) out of these 717 cases had been finalized by the military courts. Out of these 546 finalized cases, 310 terrorists had been awarded the death penalty while 234 were awarded rigorous imprisonment of varying durations ranging from life imprisonment to 5-year imprisonment. Two accused had also been acquitted.

Out of 310 convicts, fifty-six (56) people have been executed after completion of a legal process which included their appeals in superior courts and rejection of mercy petitions both by the army chief and the president. Execution of the remaining 254 terrorists is pending completion of the legal process in higher courts.

Read more: Remembering APS: A tribute to those ‘who never came back’

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) in October 2018 set aside convictions of 73 persons convicted on terrorism charges including suicide attacks and killing of security personnel and civilians. Although initially cases like murder based on personal vendettas were also sent to MC but were disregarded and MCs specifically dealt with cases involving terrorism against the state. On July 21, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pakistan turned down the PHC’s verdict.