ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court yesterday halted the execution of a prisoner, sentenced to death by a military court, till the final verdict of the appellate forum.

Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Butt told the apex court that the convicted person was still alive as the death sentence had not been executed yet.

He also submitted that the applicant had an option to file an appeal against the military court’s order. On this the Supreme Court told the petitioner that he could file an appeal before an appellate forum available under the Pakistan Army Act 1952. The court, however, halted the execution of the death convict till the decision of his appeal.

Justice Ejaz Afzal, heading a division bench, observed if the appeal was dismissed by the appellate forum, the convict could approach the high court for relief.

After the 21st Constitutional Amendment and Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015, military courts were established in the country.

After the Supreme Court’s judgment on the amendments and its ruling that the superior courts had jurisdiction to review the sentences awarded by military courts, three persons who were awarded death sentence by military courts approached the respective high courts and the apex court. The superior courts, however, have ruled that first they should seek remedy from the appellate forum and if they still feel aggrieved, can approach the respective high courts and the apex courts.

Sabir Shah was awarded death sentence last month by the military court, which was subsequently confirmed by the chief of army staff. Sabir is believed to be a member of a proscribed organisation. He was convicted for his involvement in the sectarian killing of lawyer Syed Arshad Ali in Lahore.

Dr Khalid Ranjha, counsel for Laila Bibi, the mother of the convict, challenged Sabir Shah’s death sentence in the Supreme Court. According to the petition, Laila’s son was a juvenile (below 18 years) and was not given the right to fair trial. He was not even informed of the trial by a military court.

Khalid Ranjha said the family members were not allowed to meet Sabir. He was not even given a chance to engage a counsel to contest his case. He asked the apex court to pass an order that Sabir should be allowed to engage a counsel. However, the bench ignored his request.

The counsel said on September 2, 2015, through a press release issued by the ISPR on their website, it came to the knowledge of the petitioner and other family members that Sabir Shah had been awarded death sentence by a military court.

Laila filed a writ petition before the Lahore High Court against the military court judgment. She asked the high court to review the conviction of her son. The high court, however, dismissed his petition.

Dr Ranjha said the Supreme Court’s order provides right to his client to approach the high court if the appellate forum dismisses his appeal.