As it began hearings into the suo motu case of Karachi’s summer of violence, the Supreme Court deemed the Sindh police’s earnest two-hour-long presentation insufficient, calling it no better than a “newspaper report”.
Last week, the court had taken notice of three months of continuous violence in the megalopolis that claimed over 400 lives, in what has been described as one of the deadliest spells of violence the city has ever experienced.
The five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, told Sindh government counsel Abdul Hafeez Pirzada that the allegations and confessions in the report submitted by the Sindh police are not substantiated.
Addressing Sindh Police Inspector-General Wajid Durrani, the chief justice said, “You need to show some seriousness, Mr IG,” which perturbed Pirzada who sprang to the police’s defence. “This report was prepared with the utmost responsibility and several days and nights of efforts went into [producing] this comprehensive report,” he said.
Durrani then sought to convince the court of his force’s commitment to securing the city, stating, for instance, that the police had arrested 20 target killers in just one month.
Responding to a question by the court about these shooters, Durrani said that these killers claim support from political groups or parties. “When contacted, these groups or parties disown the men and we end up in a cul-de-sac.”
The chief justice then asked Durrani to define the term ‘target killer’. “Those who kill people without a motive or to avenge the killing of men from their community at the orders of some leader,” Durrani explained.
Justice Ghulam Rabbani, a member of the bench, inquired whether a record is maintained of the claims made by these shooters, or whether such suspected groups are monitored by any intelligence or law enforcement agency.
“We are working on that. The joint investigation team’s reports are there but we can’t do anything as incriminating evidence is missing,” Durrani told the court, adding that he is noting the bench’s guidance.
Another member of the bench asked if the police named the alleged terrorists in its custody or those killed in alleged encounters.
The bench then asked if the police had interrogated the 18 men who the target killers had taken into custody and later released due to intervention from Interior Minister Rehman Malik. “Have you interrogated Asim, the man who managed to escape the clutches of alleged target killers? He is valuable evidence,” the CJ said.
“He is a drug addict and was under stress,” Durrani answered, saying they had not questioned any of the released men.
“You should have rehabilitated him and made attempts to get the required information,” the bench said.
“The situation is such that people speaking one language cannot pass through or go into an area which is populated by another ethnic group,” Durrani told the court, to which the chief justice asked him: “According to you, isn’t it a violation of the constitution that people are unable to move freely in their own city?”
Do you admit, as chief of police, that it is not possible for members of one community to go to an area of another community? the bench asked. Durrani then appeared to contradict himself and said that “no-go areas” were a misconception among ordinary citizens and, as far as the police is concerned, there are no such areas in Karachi.
Police bus attack
During the Durrani’s briefing, the court also raised questions and doubts about the police bus attack. “It is not conceivable that these police officials were travelling in a private bus,” observed Justice Amir Hani Muslim, another member of the bench.
Durrani explained that the deputy inspector-general leading the force in Chakra Goth had asked for reinforcements. Upon his request, DSP Quaidabad was coming in with 50 reserved policemen in a private bus as the official bus was out of order. These policemen, however, were armed, Durrani said and agreed to the bench’s suggestion that someone had leaked information about this movement.
The bench then told the government to inform it about violation of basic constitutional rights of citizens, including that of protection of life and property and collection of extortion money, during the fighting.
Adjourning hearing till Tuesday (today), the court asked the attorney-general of Pakistan to file reports by at least two intelligence agencies regarding the causes of violence in Karachi.
After this report is filed, the bench will hear arguments of the Sindh government’s counsel and other stakeholders including the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Awami National Party, Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jahangir, Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) President Anwar Mansoor Khan and the Sindh Bachao Tehrik.
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters after the proceedings, Pirzada said that the court can only guide the government and reiterated the government’s stance that the Sindh police is capable of controlling the violence in Karachi if only it is allowed some time.
“I’ll make submissions regarding constitutional provisions, legal issues and make suggestions for controlling violence in Karachi,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2011.
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