ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court asked the federal government on Thursday to explain the cancellation of plots belonging to two senior army officers who had been court-martialled in Sept 1996 for their alleged role in a conspiracy to proclaim ‘Khilafat’ after assassinating then prime minister Benazir Bhutto and army chief Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali had taken up a joint appeal of Col Azad Minhas and Col Inayatullah, who had been sentenced to four years each in prison by a military court on Sept 3, 1996.
Col Inayatullah had challenged the sentence in the Supreme Court in 2000 and Col Minhas in the Lahore High Court which dismissed his appeal in May last year.
In their appeal before the Supreme Court, they contended that the sentence was without jurisdiction and with mala fide intention as a consequence of which they had been removed from the military service and their properties and other privileges confiscated.
The two officers were arrested on Sept 26, 1995, along with Maj Gen Zaheerul Islam Abbasi, Brig Mustansir Billa and 38 other military officers on the charge of plotting to storm a corps commanders meeting scheduled to be held on Sept 30 that year at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. The alleged plan included assassination of then prime minister Benazir and army chief Gen Waheed Kakar, senior cabinet ministers and military chiefs, to be followed by proclamation of the Islamic system of Khilafat with Maj Gen Abbasi as Ameerul Momineen.
The details of the conspiracy were revealed after Qari Saifullah Akhtar, one of the conspirators and chief of his breakaway faction called Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami, turned an ‘approver’. On his witness the Field General Court Martial (FGCM) awarded seven years imprisonment to retired Maj Gen Abbasi, when a large cache of arms and military uniforms were confiscated. The FGCM also awarded 14 years jail term to Brig Mustansir Billa for his alleged involvement in the attempted coup.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court granted leave to appeal to the petition of Col Azad Minhas against the high court’s decision of dismissing his petition and sought comments on the petition of Col Inayatullah.
Col Minhas pleaded that his removal from the service was with mala fide intention since he had nothing to do with the conspiracy. He said he should be reinstated in the army service, his pension released and the plot allotted under the Military Officers Housing Scheme, which had been cancelled as a consequence of the court martial, should be returned back.
Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, representing the defence ministry, argued that the officers had been convicted in accordance with the law.