LHC Deems Arrest And Investigation Of High Ranking Officer Legal, Dismisses Petition Filed By Wife

Court notes it cannot claim jurisdiction to hear cases of serving officers of the armed forces or those subject to military laws, notes subject was apprehended in Quetta hence due jurisdiction is of BHC

LHC Deems Arrest And Investigation Of High Ranking Officer Legal, Dismisses Petition Filed By Wife

The Lahore High Court's (LHC) Rawalpindi bench on Tuesday dismissed a petition over the alleged illegal detention of a high-ranking military officer, noting that the officer had been detained by his institution as per the law and that it cannot exercise jurisdiction on military officers.

A single-member bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday dismissed the petition filed by Brigadier Akhtar Subhan's wife, Umaira Saleem, over his alleged abduction from his deputation in Quetta and extended detention without any reason. 

Saleem was represented on Tuesday by Colonel (retired) Inamur Raheem. Col Raheem is a former military officer who served in the Judge Adjutant General (JAG) branch and has been subject to enforced disappearance.

The court noted that Brigadier Subhan was a serving officer subject to the federal government's and the Ministry of Defence laws and rules.

Moreover, the LHC observed that Article 199(3) of the Constitution clearly bars 
the court from exercising any jurisdiction under Article 199(1)(b) in matters raised in this petition (matters pertaining to officials of the armed forces or are subject to any law relating to any of those forces). 

"The scope of constitutional jurisdiction in matters relating to Article 199(3) of the Constitution is very limited," the order explained.

Earlier, the federal government submitted a written response before the LHC explaining why the officer in question had been arrested.

Additional Attorney General Muhammad Siddique Awan submitted a two-page reply, signed by a senior officer from the General Headquarters (GHQ), stating that Brigadier Subhan was a serving officer and had been arrested under provisions of Section 73 of the Pakistan Army Act 1952. It added that he was allegedly involved in crimes of serious nature and that his arrest had been ordered by the commanding officer in Quetta after taking due consideration of his alleged involvement in the crimes. 

The government further confirmed that the officer had been arrested from Quetta and is currently under investigation while the military authorities are duly following all rules and provisions for his arrest/custody and investigation. 

Further, the government explained that the officer had deliberately concealed facts from the court and was not completely innocent.

Moreover, the government claimed that the officer's wife had allegedly filed a malicious petition only to pressurise the government, Adjutant General Army and the commanding officer of the army's Military Police Unit in Rawalpindi.

The government further said that the respondents listed in the case have no concern with the matter.

The LHC was urged that the appropriate territorial jurisdiction of this matter was the Balochistan High Court in Quetta, as the officer in question was posted and was performing his duties there. They urged the court to dismiss the petition as it was not maintainable due to territorial jurisdiction. 

However, Saleem claimed that her husband had been shifted to Rawalpindi. To prove this, she said that on September 24, she had been given meaningful access to her husband in Rawalpindi. Further, she claimed that her husband was not in good health. 

In written submissions to the court, Saleem said that neither her husband had been served with any charge sheet nor was he being actively investigated on any charge of anti-state activities. 

After reviewing the replies filed by all involved, the court dismissed the case.

"In view of the reply submitted on behalf of respondents, the whereabouts of the petitioner's husband, the authority having arrested him as well as place and reasons of his detention, are now known," the court ruled in its written order, adding that he remains in military custody and is being investigated under Section 2(1)(d) Pakistan Army Act 1952, therefore, his production order cannot be issued.

Before dismissing the petition, the court noted that the officer remains in the lawful custody of the forces in a lawful manner under the Army Act.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain