ISLAMABAD - The country is passing through a critical time therefore special measures are needed to deal with the special situation, said Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

He was heading a five-member larger bench, which heard writ petitions against the death sentences awarded by the military courts.

The bench reserved judgments on three more petitions of Fazal-e-Ghafar, Muhammad Ghori and Tahir. It directed the additional attorney general to submit complete record on the issue that whether convicts were provided opportunity to engage civil counsel of their choice under section 23 of Pakistan Army Act 1952.

The CJP said: “We are living in an atmosphere where a man is charged in murder of 112 persons but not a single person appears to give witness.” “We are living in circumstances where special measures have to be taken to deal with special situation. There is a need of proper dispensation of justice,” he said.

Justice Jamali further said in foreign country the names of witnesses and judges are changed for the sake of their safety. They don’t even appear in the court and allow migration from one country to another just to keep the identity protected.

He said: “Our country is not passing through normal time. We have aggression from different corners. Despite all these there is no protection for the judges. In recent past incidents took place where an additional sessions judge was murdered in Rawalpindi.”

The chief justice stated these in response to the arguments of the counsel of a military court convict Fazal-e-Ghafar.

Ahmed Raza Kasuri advocate said the name of presiding officer, prosecutor and witnesses were erased from the military court record that was shown to him. He said the additional district judges are more vulnerable, as people know their houses while the army Colonel live in protected areas of Cantonments.

Kasuri argued that there are lacunas in the judgment of the military courts, adding there is violation of rules and laws. He further said the families of convicts have approached the apex court as it being the guardian of Fundamental Rights should look into these cases.

Additional Advocate General Attique Shah informed the bench that there is no illegality or irregularity in the orders of the military courts, as the law had been followed and there is complete evidence available on record against the convicts.

The chief justice asked the AAG that so far they are not satisfied by the submission of record regarding the issue of engaging civil counsel of choice by the convicts. He said in some cases the question of providing defence counsel was put but in many other cases it was not asked.

He directed the AGG to submit record in that regard by June 20. Justice Azmat said they can’t brush this issue under the carpet as it has legal consequence. He said that counsel of choice is the Fundamental Right guaranteed in the constitution. He asked the AAG to identify in the record by highlighting it with marker where the offer was made to the convicts and where they had declined. He warned the AAG not to fiddle with the record as their memory is very sharp.

Attique Shah informed that in cases where the accused had declined the offer of counsel it had been recorded and where the convicts said accept then the opportunity was provided to engage the civil counsel of their choice.

Kasuri told that his client Fazal-e-Ghafar had voluntarily surrendered to the authorities on 27-12-2009. He was kept in internment centre and on March 13, 2016 his family came to know through daily ‘Mashriq’ that he was sentence to death by the military authorities.

Latif Afridi advocate representing Mohammad Ghori, another convict by military court, contended that his client was arrested on January 7, 2010 but was involved in the attack on mosque in Parade Line, Rawalpindi, which took place in 4-12-2009.

Latif Afridi questioned when according to the authorities the whole family of Ghori is involved in heinous crimes then why they were not put on trial.

Mehmood Raza Khan advocate appeared on behalf of Tahir. He submitted that his client was resident of Bannu but authorities arrested him from Lahore. He was sentence to death on 02-09-2015 in cases of attack on Frontier Constabulary check post, Bannu and Bannu Jail break. He was not given option to engage counsel of choice. The hearing is adjourned till 20th June.