With political forces struggling to contain outbreaks of extreme violence in the country’s largest city, the Supreme Court stepped in on Monday – taking suo motu notice of the continuous bloodshed over the last three months.
The court has directed all television channels to submit related video footage within 24 hours.
A statement issued by the court’s human rights cell said that notices have been issued to all channels. The cell will review the footage and then forward the matter to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry for further orders.
The suo motu follows an appeal by religious scholar Dr Tahirul Qadri, who wrote a letter to a local newspaper urging the court to intervene as the federal and Sindh governments have failed to control the situation.
Meanwhile, in a first instance of a petition calling for the armed forces to protect civilians, Advocate Tariq Asad has petitioned the court to direct the federal government to proclaim an emergency and call in the armed forces to assist civil authorities to protect the lives and liberties of Karachi’s citizens as guaranteed in the Constitution.
Prime Minister Gilani, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, interior secretary, Sindh chief secretary and Sindh home secretary are named as respondents in the petition.
The petitioner has also asked the court to order Malik to disclose the ‘third force’ responsible for target killings in Karachi and resign if he can’t tackle that force.
Asad says that all political parties have demanded that the armed forces be asked to control the situation in Karachi and even the army chief has offered assistance. Therefore, respondents should be directed to submit a comprehensive report before the court, saying how many people have been killed and who is responsible for the killings.
Separately, a senior Supreme Court advocate Hashmat Habib has requested the chief justice to constitute a high-level judicial commission to investigate the Karachi killings.
The commission, he proposes, should comprise two senior Supreme Court judges and the chief justices of all high courts. Habib says that Karachi’s situation is ‘tailor-made’ merely to get American aid by bringing the army into action but those who are inviting the army should remember that once they come out of their barracks, it will be difficult to send them back.
Therefore, political pressure should be exerted on local police, who should be empowered to control the situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2011.