Fata tribunal again puts off Dr Shakil case

PESHAWAR: The Federally Administered Tribal Areas Tribunal on Thursday adjourned the hearing into a petition of Dr Shakil Afridi once again against the upholding of his conviction by an appellate forum for links with banned militant outfits.

The adjournment of the proceedings until Nov 16 was announced by the tribunal, the third and final judicial forum available under the Frontier Crimes Regulation, due to the non-appointment of the state prosecutor.

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

Qamar Nadeem Afridi, lawyer for Dr Shakil, told Dawn that the federal government had so far not appointed any special prosecutor for the case and therefore, no progress had taken place on the petition.

On Mar 15, 2014 , the FCR commissioner, which is the appellate forum under the FCR, had upheld the conviction of Dr Shakil for links to a banned militant organisation of Bara tehsil in 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.

There has been no notable progress on Dr Afridi’s petition challenging the commissioner’s decision for around two years. The tribunal also adjourned hearing of a petition filed by Khyber Agency’s administration against the reduction of Dr Shakil’s sentence by the commissioner.

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, he was not convicted by the trial court on that charge.

The assistant political agent, who is 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.

Petitioner Dr Shakil claimed he was denied the right to fair trial and was convicted by the assistant political agent on ‘flimsy grounds’. The petitioner has contended that the FCR commissioner had ignored several facts while upholding his conviction. He stated that earlier the commissioner was sent back the case by the tribunal for clarifying certain points, but instead of clarifying those points the commissioner upheld the decision of the APA.

Few weeks ago, former deputy attorney general for Pakistan Khursheed Khan had filed a petition with the high court seeking orders for the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments not to send Dr Shakil abroad until the final verdict in the case.

He said the court should seek the court’s prior permission if it was to send Dr Shakil abroad. The petitioner had also sought the court’s orders for the government against the shifting of Dr Shakil from the Peshawar Central Prison to any other prison in the province or other provinces. He feared that the government might hand over Dr Afridi to the US.