Pakistan’s Supreme Court has delivered a landmark verdict that declared the trial of civilians arrested after the violent protests on May 9 in military courts as null and void.
The ruling, which was given by a five-member bench led by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, came after hearing a set of petitions challenging the legitimacy of trying civilians in military courts following the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan on charges of treason and corruption. Khan’s arrest sparked widespread unrest and clashes between his supporters and security forces, resulting in several deaths and injuries.
The court observed that the trial of civilians in military courts was unconstitutional, particularly citing the unconstitutionality of Section 2(1)(d) of the Army Act, which extended the jurisdiction of military courts to those who were temporarily associated with the armed forces or who were debarred from duty. The court also noted that the military courts did not follow the procedural safeguards and standards of evidence required for a fair trial, such as recording evidence, providing detailed reasoning, and allowing appeals to higher courts.
The court’s decision has been hailed as a significant step towards civilian supremacy and the rule of law in Pakistan, where the military has often intervened in political affairs and exercised influence over the judiciary. The verdict has also been welcomed by human rights activists and lawyers, who have long criticized the military courts for violating the rights of the accused and undermining the credibility of the justice system.