As per section 131 of Pakistan Penal code, “Abetting mutiny, or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty: Whoever abets the committing of mutiny by an officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force of Pakistan, or attempts to seduce any such officer, soldier, sailor, or airman from his allegiance of his duty, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
In 2020, Hasan Askree, son of a retired military General Zaffar Mehdi Askree, was finally tried for his provocative agenda that was principally aimed at inciting resentment and mutiny amongst senior members of the armed forces of Pakistan. While the exact content of his numerous blatantly nefarious letters have not been disclosed to protect the prestige of country’s military, sources have claimed that Askree had an agenda of abetting mutiny among the most senior ranks of the Army by criticizing the then Chief of Army Staff General (Retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa’s governance and position as the top General of Pakistan Army.
In a recent press conference on March 28, family of the convict went public with an elaborate account of Askaree’s alleged unfair trial and called out legal system of Pakistan for failing to dispense justice. The family mainly challenged the legality of proceedings of Field General Court Martial that sentenced the convict to five years of rigorous imprisonment. While the statements of injustice made during the conference raise sympathies in the hearts of general public, they are not exactly correct as a proper trial was carried out wherein Askree was in fact provided with a lawyer to fulfil the prerequisites of legal proceedings in a military court.
Sympathizers of Askree have questioned the legitimacy of his trial under Field General Court Martial due to his status as a civilian with little to no investigation of laws of the land. Hasan Askree’s trial under a military court attains its legal backing from the ancient and elaborate Pakistan Army Act 1952 which was formulated to bring to justice the offenders not just associated with the country’s armed forces but also any person that attempts to create upheaval within the rank and file of the military, thus endangering the state’s internal sovereignty and prestige.
According to Pakistan Army Act, 1952, “Persons not otherwise subject to this Act who are accused of – Seducing or attempting to seduce any person subject to this Act from his duty or allegiance to Government…”
As the legality of the trial and sanctity of Pakistan’s justice system has been brought into question on various occasions since Askree was sentenced to imprisonment upon finding him guilty of sedation – an offense punishable by imprisonment and fine in most countries across the world – sources familiar with the matter had once before clarified that legal proceedings of Hassan Askree’s case were carried out in accordance with the letter and spirit of the applicable law, as well as mandate of fair trial, enshrined in Article 10-A of the Constitution (1973) of the country.
While general focus of so-called rights activists and vigilantes remains on circumstances of Askree’s trial and resultant punishment, it is pertinent to bring into focus that he was given multiple chances to seize his wrongful acts of harassment of senior military leadership of the country. Despite of full knowledge of the gravity of legal consequences of his anti-state agenda, Askree continued to wrongfully malign the legitimacy of Army’s policies and carried out personal attacks on Pakistan’s then senior most military commander.
The alleged reason for Askree’s return to Pakistan in 2015 to cater for his mother’s ailment, does not fit well with the anti-state agenda he had begun to pursue shortly after his arrival. Askree’s failed attempts at inciting mutiny among Pakistan’s military and objective to overthrow the government are a clear testament of his possible collusion with enemies of Pakistan. While Askree serves his five-year-term in a high security prison in Sahiwal, the government of Pakistan has made it clear that enemies of the state that seek to exploit the country’s civil-military harmony and provoking resentment within the armed forces of Pakistan will be dealt with an iron fist.