A day after being grilled by the Supreme Court on Karachi’s violence, Sindh police chief Wajid Durrani had an even tougher time making a favourable case for the police force on Tuesday.
Adjourning proceedings of the suo motu notice taken of the Karachi violence till September 5, the court said that the government has the capacity to control the situation in Karachi but it appears as if the administration lacks the will to do so.
A full bench, headed by Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, began hearing the case at the Supreme Court’s Karachi registry on Monday. In its first hearing, Durrani gave a two-hour-long presentation that the court dismissed as a ‘newspaper report’.
Tuesday was no better for Sindh’s Inspector-General of Police. “What type of officers do you have? You have no knowledge of how many torture cells exist in Karachi, while a private television channel has showed it,” said the chief justice, addressing Durrani.
The television channel had also interviewed some men who, it said, had managed to escape their killers. When Durrani said that these men were not among the 18 identified by the police, the bench observed that the police chief was not “telling the entire truth”.
Justice Amir Hani Muslim remarked that Durrani seemed to be unaware that, apart from the people whom they had identified, there were others who had been abducted. Justice Muslim observed that none of the arrested alleged target killers were produced before an anti-terrorism court and the city was left to be terrorised.
“Most FIRs are registered against unidentified persons and were closed by declaring them ‘A class’ [because of lack of incriminating evidence],” the CJ observed. “No effort has been made by police officers and other law-enforcers to trace the accused.”
The case is further spoiled because innocent people are booked and later freed for want of evidence, said Justice Muslim. “Television channels show the person shooting but they [the police and law enforcers] do not want to arrest them,” he said.
Interrupting the Sindh government’s counsel, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, the bench said that it is conscious of the pitfalls in the system, which is why it had taken this suo motu notice. “We stand for democracy. This court will never like any departure from democracy as this country has already suffered a lot,” the CJ said. “The provincial machinery should [be able to] control these perpetrators.”
During his arguments, Pirzada said that, in suo motu proceedings, the court can only make suggestions. “The government did not violate any basic human or fundamental rights. If it does so through a legislative or executive order, the court has the power to strike it down.”
Responding to Pirzada’s arguments, the CJ said that the court and counsel shall not tread into grey areas such as invoking the constitutional mechanism of proclaiming emergency or calling armed forces to aid civilian powers. “The federal and provincial government can control the situation on ground, only some determination is required,” the bench observed.
“We want to give a wake-up call to the authorities. They are not doing everything that they are capable of doing,” observed Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany.
Pirzada said that he has conveyed the court’s observations to the prime minister, Sindh chief minister and other senior officials.
“There is a general impression among the people that the fundamental rights of citizens are being compromised for political expediency, which is considered more important,” observed Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.
“Why doesn’t the provincial government raise its own force?” Justice Jamali asked. “You have more than 32,000 policemen for Karachi and even then you have borrowed 25,000 more from the federation.”
The hearing was then adjourned till September 5. Addressing the Sindh police chief, the court asked him to present, at the next hearing, a detailed report with respect to all FIRs registered during the past month.
Iftikhar Gilani, counsel for the Awami National Party, will address the court at the next hearing.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2011.