By Khalid Hussain —
Supreme Court (SC) has stayed operation of the Lahore High Court (LHC) judgement directing the government to set detained lawyer Colonel (R) Inam-ur-Rahiem free when Attorney General (AG) for Pakistan Captain (R) Anwar Mansoor told the SC that he was a foreign spy and has been charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1923 and the Pakistan Army Act 1952 for possession of documents on “the Nuclear Assetts, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and other information he was not supposed to be with him”.
A three member bench of the SC led by Justice Mushir Alam and joined by Justices Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Syed mansoor Ali Shah was hearing constitutional petition # 68/2020 by the Federation of Pakistan through Secretary Ministry of Defence against the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi Bench order dated January 09, 2020 declaring the detention of Inam-ul-Rahiem illegal and unlawful. The retired lieutenant colonel is a lawyer known for pursuing cases of the missing persons and for moving court against high officials of the armed services. He was picked up by military authorities from his home in Rawalpindi on the night between December 16-17, 2019.
The AG presented the bench a sealed envelope containing the initial inquiry report explain how the detention of Col Inam was related to national security. The AG again requested in-camera proceedings but the Bench declined insisting that he first share the grounds on which Col. (R) Rahiem was taken into custody. Judges also inquired as to how the process of arrest and detention works under the Pakistan Army Act and under the Official Secrets Act. The AG explained that there are two different types of charges framed under the Army Act. Initial allegation is the charge that is investigated in the initial inquiry while the formal charges are framed at the stage of court martial.
Detailing the nature of charges against Colonel (R) Rahiem, the AG told the Bench he was suspected of being a foreign spy and part of a complex network as sensitive information on Pakistan’s nuclear assets, the ISI and other information from his notebook computer. Upon the court’s inquiry, the AG said it was not possible to say how long it will take to complete the initial inquiry as other persons have also been apprehended for being part of a spy network working for foreign interests.
The bench had also asked the federal government to produce Colonel Rahiem before the Supreme Court on Tuesday (today), however, once again the government defied court orders. Lawyers said it was gross violation of law not to produce the detained lawyer for the very issue of habeas corpus calls to produce the body in court.
It is interesting to note that the court has still not issued notices to the other party yet. Colonel Inam’s counsel told TLTP that his detention is all because of “the Angoor Adda case he was pursuing at the LHC Rawalpindi bench”. Then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif handed over a purpose-build border crossing facility at Angoor Ada to Afghan authorities on May 21, 2016. The then Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa, tweeted, “With aim to strengthen brotherly relations with Afghanistan besides strategic intent to improve border management, the border-crossing facility was handed over to Afghan authorities at Angoor Ada, a buffering town.”
Straddling the border between the South Waziristan of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, Angoor Adda is one of the two easy passages across the mountainous border between Paktika and Waziristan. The Durand Line was first demarcated in 1895 and slices through the east side of the main bazaar area of Angoor Adda. The check post was an old one constructed during the Taliban era when the border control was not that stringent. The Afghan’s claimed that the check post was on Pakistani soil while the gate was in their territory. Afghan authorities had been protesting for years and the crossing was closed after troops exchanged fire following a dispute over the construction of a gate in the Barmal Valley. Tension had escalated between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the two countries deployed tanks and armoured personnel carriers along the tense Durand Line besides sending more troops when bilateral negotiating teams failed to resolve border fencing disputes.
The Petition he filed charged the unauthorized handing over of the security post act was punishable under Section 24 of the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952 as delivering any garrison, fortress, airfield, place, post or guard is punishable. According to the petition, the Angoor Adda post is spread over several kilometres where thousands of Pakistanis live. As a result of the handover, the petitioner maintained, those Pakistanis lost their citizenship and had also been made homeless.
The petition did not come up for hearing for almost two years before the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) resumed hearing against the handing over of the Angoor Adda post to Afghanistan. Colonel (R) Rahiem requested proceedings against former COAS and then DG ISPR who is presently Chairman of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority.
“The decision of military authorities of handing over the post to Afghan government caused serious unrest among the whole nation especially the ex-servicemen, therefore, the petitioner being convener of ex-servicemen legal forum called emergent meeting and after deliberations unanimously expressed their grave concerns that under which authority the military leadership delivered the post to Afghan government,”, the petition read. Colonel (R) Rahiem maintained in his petition that only the parliament can decide bilateral matters with other countries while it is the duty of the COAS to defend the territory of Pakistan.
According to press reports, the handing over of the Angoor Ada check post came a week after Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal and former COAS General (R) Raheel Sharif. The petition alleged former COAS General (R) Raheel Sharif consented to hand over Angoor Adda to the Afghan government which is an act of coram non judice. Citing the prime minister, defence secretary and senior military authorities as respondents, the petitioner requested the court to direct the prime minister to initiate proceedings against the officials for transferring the post’s control to the Afghan government.
The hearing was adjourned till next week.
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