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No hearing into Dr Shakil’s plea as Fata tribunal non-functional

No hearing into Dr Shakil’s plea as Fata tribunal non-functional

PESHAWAR: The petition of Dr Shakil Afridi against the upholding of his conviction by an appellate forum for having links with banned outfits wasn’t heard on Tuesday as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas tribunal has been non-functional for around eight months.

An official of the tribunal, which became non-functional after the promulgation of the Fata Interim Governance Regulation (FIGR) 2018, fixed Apr 4 for the next hearing.

Dr Shakil’s lawyer Qamar Nadeem Afridi told Dawn that as the three-member tribunal, which was the third and last judicial forum under the erstwhile Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), had become non-functional, no proceedings could take place.

Lawyer hints at moving PHC against client’s conviction

He said after consultation with Abdul Lateef Afridi, the lead counsel for Dr Shakil, they were likely to file a petition with the Peshawar High Court on the matter as there existed no possibility of the revival of the Fata tribunal after the enactment of the Constitution (Twenty-fifth Amendment) Act, 2018, through which tribal agencies were merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He claimed that for the last two months, the government had not been allowing even his close family members to meet him in the Sahiwal high security prison, where he had been detained.

The Fata tribunal comprised chairman Sange Marjan Khan and members Hussainzada Khan and Atif Nazir.

On May 28, 2018, the country’s president promulgated the FIGR abolishing the FCR.

However, there was no mention of the tribunal in the new law and even it didn’t suggest what would be the fate of the cases pending with the tribunal. Since then, the tribunal has been non-functional and has been awaiting the government notification regarding its fate.

The FCR commissioner, which is the appellate forum under the FCR, had upheld on Mar 15, 2014, the conviction of Dr Shakil for being linked to a banned militant organisation of Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency but reduced his original prison term slapped by the assistant political agent’s court from 33 years to 23 years and that of the Rs320,000 fine to Rs220,000. Through the revision petition, Dr Shakil has challenged the decision of the commissioner. The petition has been pending for over four years. Another petition filed by the administration of Khyber Agency (now Khyber tribal district) against the reduction of sentence of Dr Shakil by the commissioner was also not heard.

The tribunal’s official fixed the hearing for Apr 4.

Dr Shakil was taken into custody in May 2011 by intelligence agencies on suspicion of arranging a fake vaccination campaign at the behest of American CIA in Abbottabad for tracing Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

However, the trial court didn’t convict him on that charge.

The assistant political agent, who was also the additional district magistrate of Bara tehsil in Khyber agency, convicted him on May 23, 2012, for involvement in anti-state activities by supporting the Bara-based Lashkar-i-Islam, and sentenced him on different counts to a total of 33 years’ imprisonment with fine of Rs320,000.

Dr Shakil claimed that he was denied the right to fair trial and was convicted by the assistant political agent on ‘flimsy grounds’.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2019

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