<img src="https://cage.ngo/wp-content/uploads/cage-mushtaq-ahmed.png" />
On 14 December 2003, an attempt was made to murder the Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. The attackers had placed explosives under a bridge which were meant to explode on the passage of Musharraf’s car. However, the bomb could not be activated on time and the explosion did not take place.
Pakistani military tribunals tried nearly two dozen people (Army members, Air force members and civilians) in separate trials. Mushtaq Ahmad, a civilian, was sentenced to death after having been denied basic due process rights. To understand his case it is necessary to look at the case of another man, Abdul Islam Siddiqui.
<h3>The case of Abdul Islam Siddiqui</h3>
Abdul Islam Siddiqui, a soldier, alongside many members of the Army and civilians was arrested in relation with the 14 December 2003 attack. In June 1999, he allegedly travelled to Afghanistan to train in camps run by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. He was also said to have links with Jaish Mohammad. However, his family explained that he was arrested in South Waziristan as one of the soldiers belonging to the many troops that declined to be posted there or refused to continue fighting against the local tribes.
He was said to be the individual who pressed the button of the remote control device which caused the explosion on Jhanda Chichi Bridge...Several people are alleged to have given testimony against him. However, they claimed that the military authority tortured them in order to obtain false statements against Siddiqui. He was prosecuted by an in-camera trial before a military tribunal. Abdul Islam Siddiqui was sentenced to death on 20 October 2004 even though the sentence was officially given on 25 December 2004 (only a year after the attempt murder).
He then experienced severe miscarriages of justice, mainly because General Musharraf as army chief (but also victim of the alleged crime) was involved in the process. Once a death sentence is confirmed, the convict can file an appeal in a military court of appeal headed by a military officer subordinated to the army chief (Musharraf). If such appeals are rejected, the case is taken to an appellant court and then to high courts and if necessary to the Supreme Court.
Eventually, a mercy petition can be filed before the president (General Musharraf again).
In Abdul Islam’s case, the appeal was rejected by President Musharraf in his capacity as the army chief. This decision was confirmed by an appellate military court. The decision of Musharraf to reject the appeal of Abdul Islam was interpreted as a rejection of the mercy petition by General Musharraf (as the president).In other words, the first stage of the procedure was taken as the final one, preventing Abdul Islam from going to superior courts. The prison authorities are normally in charge of filling such appeals.
Ten days before the execution, Abdul Islam’s brother tried to visit him in prison with their lawyer. However they were denied access by the prison authorities on the order of the Army. On 20 August 2005, Abdul Islam Siddiqui was hung.
<h3><u>Mushtaq Ahmad </u></h3>
Mushtaq Ahmad is a Pakistani civilian born in January 1978.
<h3>Arrest and allegations</h3>
On 9 January 2004, Mushtaq Ahmad was arrested and accused of the 14 December 2003 attack against president Musharraf. In his autobiography, <em>In the line of fire</em>, Pervez Musharraf said that Mushtaq Ahmad was the planner for an organisation of 150 to 200 people who owed allegiance to Mullah Omar and was sponsored by Jaish Mohammad. He also wrote that he was the one who triggered the explosive. Hence, Mushtaq was accused of an act for which Abdul Islam had already been sentenced to death.
<h3>Miscarriage of justice</h3>
Mushtaq was presented to a judge five months after his arrest. Even though he was a civilian, he was tried alone by a military tribunal. Six co-accused, members of the Air force were tried separately. He was not allowed to choose his advocate, nor was he permitted to present any witness for his defence. No evidence was found against him except the testimonies of five member of the Air force, all under arrest. Those testimonies contradicted the testimonies of other witnesses who claimed to have seen Abdul Islam Siddiqui activating the bomb. During Mushtaq’s trial, no mention was made of Siddiqui.
Even though, the attack did not cause a single casualty. Mushtaq was sentenced to death in October 2004 after an in camera hearing. 9 other persons, co-accused or accused of a suicide attack against President Musharraf on 25 December 2005 were also given a death sentence (Khalid Mehmood, Nawazish Ali, Niaz Ahmed, Adnan Arshad, <span style="font-size: 15.5555562973022px;">Naik Arshad Mehmood, Zubair Ahmed, Rashid Qureshi, Ghulam Servar Bhatti, Ikhlas Ahmed). Karam Din, </span><span style="font-size: 15.5555562973022px;">Nasarullah and Amir Sohail were given prison sentences. </span>
<h3>Right to appeal sought</h3>
In July 2011, Advocate Mohammad Ikram Chaudhry filed separate petitions on the behalf of several of the convicted, including Mushtaq before the Supreme Court. He requested the apex court to direct the government in amending the law in order to provide at least one right of appeal against the decision of the military court, either before the Supreme Court or before an independent military tribunal.
He also argued that the amendments made under the Musharraf regime in three military laws to bring civilians under the jurisdiction of military tribunals were unconstitutional. More generally, they argued that military laws denied fundamental rights of fair trial and due process through independent and impartial tribunals.
<h3>Plea returned by the Supreme Court registrar office</h3>
The SC Registrar Office returned the petition by raising two objections as the petitioners did not have locus standi and they were convicted persons, therefore, the applicants had no right to file a constitutional petition.
Mushtaq Ahmad was to be executed on 31 December 2011. However, the execution was postponed. He remains in death row.
<h3>Taken to a secret place of detention and torture</h3>
Mushtaq Ahmad was taken to a secret location probably inside Faisalabad prison (which is apparently huge) and left in an open cage. It is assessed that he has been in this situation for over a month. The superintendent identified as Babar has left to hajj and it is not known when he will come back.
It is a problem becoming common across Punjab. Detainees are left naked in open cages fully exposed to the sun heat with very limited access to food and water. According to an eye-witness, at least one or two detainees have died in those conditions.
On 13 January 2015, Mushtaq Ahmad was executed in Faisalabad District Jail, amid tight security.
Altogether, seven men were hanged in four different jails across the country. Officials only communicated after the executions.