PESHAWAR, Feb 14: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday put on notice the attorney general for Pakistan in a writ petition challenging the military operation in Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency directing him to clarify several questions related to the action, including legality of the prolonged curfew.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth directed the respondents, including the defence and state and frontier region (Safron) ministries, to file written replies within 20 days.
The petition is filed by a resident of Bara Bazaar, Gul Afridi, requesting the court to order lifting of the indefinite curfew and conducting of a judicial inquiry into killings of innocent persons and demolishing of their properties.
The bench asked several questions like whether curfew could be clamped by the security forces for an indefinite period in an area without the authority of the respective political agent; whether governor of the province was informed about the curfew in writing; whether any compensation was paid in cases of collateral damages; and whether the violation of fundamental rights of people had been checked.
The bench also asked under which notification the security forces were called in aid of civil administration in Bara and for how long it would be applicable.
It observed that the security forces had been operating under the Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation 2011 and the said law also provided certain mechanism which had to be followed by the security forces.
It added that under Section 4 of the Regulation, the forces had to protect the lives and properties of non-combatants in the conflict zone.
The bench observed that under Article 5 of the Regulation, action had to be taken against the officials found involved in violation of fundamental rights.
It directed the attorney general to inform whether action had so far been taken against any of the officials under the said regulation for violation of the people’s rights.
Samiullah Afridi, lawyer for the petitioner, contended that curfew had been imposed in most part of Bara tehsil for the last four years and as a result, Bara Bazaar was closed, commercial activities were banned, and the people could not move freely and therefore, continuation of curfew would bring more devastation and frustration to the area.
He said on one hand, local residents were targeted by militants and on the other, they were detained and killed by security forces, while indiscriminate artillery shelling had become order of the day resulting in killing of innocent women and children.
The lawyer said the recent killings of 19 people by security forces in Bara had gone unnoticed and ironically, instead of taking action against the responsible officials, the government had tried to cover it up.
The petitioner prayed the court that formation of a judicial commission be ordered to see how many innocent people had been killed and injured and how many houses or properties had been demolished since Sept 2008 when security forces were called to the tehsil, and suggest compensation for the affected families.