Supreme Court issues notices on pleas against court martial
By: Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court issued on Monday notices on a set of petitions seeking review of its earlier order of dismissing appeals by Maj Gen (retd) Zaheerul Islam Abbasi, his wife Shahida Zaheer, Brig (retd) Mustansir Billah and Col (retd) Inayatullah Khan against convictions by a Field General Court Marshal (FGCM) for plotting to overthrow the 1995 government of PPP leader Benazir Bhutto.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Nasirul Mulk and Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja issued the notices to legal heirs of Zaheerul Islam Abbasi who has passed away and adjourned the proceedings for three weeks.
Representing Zaheerul Islam, Advocate Habib Wahabul Khairi told the court that his client had died and his appeal was moved against the court martial in the Supreme Court, but it was never heard for 15 years. He regretted that Maj-Gen Abassi’s assets had been confiscated contrary to the army regulations.According to the counsel, the court issued notices to the president and the army chief and other respondents in the case.
The Supreme Court had earlier rejected the appeal of Maj-Gen (retd) Abbasi he moved in 1997 when he was in jail serving a seven-year jail term awarded by the FGCM. The appeal was dismissed on the ground that it was outside the purview of the civilian courts because he had been convicted by a military court.
Maj Gen (retd) Abbasi, Brig Mustansir Billah, two colonels and about 38 other military officers were arrested on Sept 26, 1995, on the charge of plotting to storm a meeting of corps commanders scheduled to be held on Sept 30 at the general headquarters in Rawalpindi.
The alleged plan included assassination of prime minister Benazir Bhutto and then army chief Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar, senior cabinet ministers and military chiefs, to be followed by proclamation of the Islamic system of Khilafat with Maj-Gen Abbasi as Ameerul Momineen.
The details of the conspiracy were revealed after Qari Saifullah Akhtar, one of the conspirators and chief of his breakaway faction called Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami, turned an ‘approver’. On his witness the FGCM awarded the seven-year imprisonment to Maj Gen (retd) Abbasi, when a large cache of arms and military uniforms were confiscated. The FGCM also awarded 14-year jail term to Brig Mustansir Billah for his alleged involvement in the attempted coup.
Qari Akhtar was not convicted as part of a deal with the government, but he slipped to Kabul and started running a training camp there. When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 his training camp was hit during a US bombing raid, killing most of his trained men.
Then Qari Akhtar disappeared from Afghanistan, but was arrested from the UAE in 2004 and handed over to Pakistan.
His name was also mentioned by Benazir Bhutto in her last book ‘Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West’ in which she wrote that she had reasons to believe that Qari Akhtar’s gang wanted to kill her.
Qari Akhtar was again arrested in Lahore on Feb 26, 2008, for his alleged involvement in an attempt to assassinate Ms Bhutto in Karachi on Oct 18, 2007, when she returned to Pakistan after an eight-year exile.