ISLAMABAD (HRNW) – The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday upheld the sentences of two army officers involved in the conspiracy to overthrow the government of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 1995.
Justice Munib Akhtar read out the judgment reserved on Feb 15, 2022, dismissing the appeals of retired colonels Azad Minhas and Inayatullah Khan.
Both officers moved the Supreme Court in 2016 after the Lahore High Court rejected their pleas against the decision of the Field Court Martial which sentenced Minhas to two years and Inayatullah to four years in jail.
A three-judge SC bench comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Sayyed Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi reserved judgement on Feb 15, 2022 after hearing Additional Attorney General (AAG) Sajid Ilyas Bhatti as well as Col Minhas and Col Khan.
Both the officers were arrested along with retired Maj Gen Zaheerul Islam Abbasi, now deceased, and Brig Mustansir Billah on Sept 26, 1995 on charges of plotting to storm a meeting of corps commanders scheduled to be held on Sept 30 that year at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
The “conspirators” planned to assassinate then prime minister Benazir Bhutto and army chief Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar, senior cabinet ministers and military chiefs, besides proclamation of the Islamic system of Khilafat with Maj Gen Abbasi as amir.
According to media reports, the details of the conspiracy were revealed after Qari Saifullah Akhtar, one of the conspirators and chief of his breakaway faction Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami, turned an “approver”.
On his testimony, the FGCM had sentenced Maj Gen Abbasi to seven-year and Brig Billah to 14-year in jail.
During the hearing, AAG Bhatti argued before the bench that the court of appeals had in November 1997 confirmed the sentence of two-year rigorous imprisonment awarded by the FGCM to Col Minhas and four-year rigorous imprisonment to Col Khan, in addition to dismissal from service.
The AAG said the FGCM usually comprised three senior army officials, but in this case five officers conducted the trial as was done in the General Court Martial (GCM) and, while taking a lenient view, awarded less punishment to the two officers on Sept 3, 1997.
Col Khan had moved the Supreme Court in 2000 against the FGCM decision, while Col Minhas appealed before the Lahore High Court which was dismissed in May 2015. He later filed an appeal in the apex court.
Both the officers had before the Supreme Court assailed the sentence on the grounds that the conviction by the military court was done with mala fide intent as a consequence of which they were removed from the service of the armed forces and their properties and other privileges were also confiscated.