ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Monday accepted the review petitions of four retired military officers, who attempted coup against the civilian government in 1995, and issued notices to all respondents, including President Asif Ali Zardari, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and other concerned parties in the case.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heard petitions that had been filed by the retired military officers - Maj-Gen (r) Zaheerul Islam Abbasi, Brigadier Mustansar Billah, Colonel Inayatullah and Colonel Azad Minhas –, who had been convicted for attempting a coup against the civilian government in 1995, against the military court’s order. The petitioners have challenged Pakistan Army Acts and Rules and the proceedings under Field General Court Martial (FGCM) and the validity of punishment awarded to them.

These military officers allegedly plotted to proclaim Caliphate , with Maj-Gen Abbasi as Amirul Momineen (Leader of the Faithful) after assassinating the then prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the then army chief General Abdul Waheed Kakar, senior cabinet ministers and military officers in 1995.

Details of the conspiracy were revealed after Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a co-conspirator and chief of his breakaway faction called Harkatul Jihad Al Islami, who opted to become an approver. On his evidence, the FGCM awarded the seven-year jail sentence to Maj-Gen (r) Abbasi. A large cache of arms and military uniforms had also been confiscated. The FGCM also awarded a 14-year jail term to Brigadier Mustansar Billah for his alleged involvement in the attempted coup.

The court also accepted review petition, filed by the widow of Abbasi against the possession of her husband’s assets by the army after his court martial. It issued notices to all the heirs of the late major general in this regard.

During the hearing, Maj-Gen (r) Abbasi’s counsel Habib Wahabul Khairi told the court that his client, who had passed away, was accused of attempting to overthrow the government during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure, which prompted the army to court martial him.

More than 40 military officers were arrested on Sept 26, 1995, on charges of plotting to storm a corps commanders’ meeting to be held on September 30 at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Wahabul Khairi said an appeal was filed against the court martial in the Supreme Court, but it had not been heard in the past 15 years. Moreover, during the course of the years, his client’s assets were also confiscated, which was a violation of army regulation, the counsel argued. He requested the court to order the return of his client’s assets.

Upon this, the court issued notice to President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and other concerned parties in the case.

Hearing of the case is adjourned for three weeks.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had rejected Abbasi’s appeal filed in 1997 against the seven-year jail term awarded to him by the Field General Court Marshal (FGCM). The appeal was dismissed and the court had observed that the matter was outside the purview of civilian courts.

SC issues notices to President, Army Chief