ATC can try suspects in absentia, orders IHC

Case transferred to another anti-terror judge

Rizwan Shehzad February 08, 2017

ISLAMABAD: In a move that may help allow the murder trial of a slain Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) prosecutor to finally progress after being stalled for nearly two years, the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday ordered an anti-terrorism court  to consider proceedings against absconding suspects in absentia.

A division bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi and Justice Aamer Farooq also transferred the trial proceedings to another ATC following a request from the son of the slain prosecutor.

In Tuesday’s order, the IHC bench stated that the ATC may consider proceedings under section 512 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) against the absconding accused as well as proceedings under section 514 of CrPC against the surety givers as he failed to produce the suspects before the court.

Previously, ATC judge Syed Kausar Abbas Zaidi was conducting proceedings in the case. However, after Tuesday’s orders, ATC Judge Sohail Ikram will conduct the trial.

Trial of FIA prosecutor Chaudhary Zulfiqar Ali’s murder has been pending adjudication for the last three years with the suspects yet to be indicted.

The late prosecutor’s son, Nisar Ali, had filed a petition with the IHC, seeking directions for the ATC to initiate proceedings under section 512 (record of evidence in absence of accused) of CrPC against the absconding suspects Abdullah Umer, as well as proceedings under section 514 (procedure on forfeiture of bond) of CrPC against the sureties provided.

Considered to be one of the most dynamic prosecutors in the country for pursuing cases while defying death threats from suspects with powerful connections, Zulfiqar’s own case has gone nowhere since he was shot 17 times while going to court to appear in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case.

On May 3, 2013, Ali along with his Frontier Constabulary guard, Farman Ali, was heading to an ATC in Rawalpindi when unidentified men opened indiscriminate fire on him.

A female passerby, Robina Mustafa, was run over by Ali’s vehicle after he lost control over it.

Nisar stated that one of the attackers was shot and injured by Zulfiqars’ guard. Later, the Margalla police arrested Umer from the Quaid-e-Azam International Hospital and submitted an incomplete supplementary charge sheet against him in the case.

Later, suspects including Hammad Hussain Adil and his brother Adnan Adil, were arrested by the police. In the petition, Nisar said case proceedings started on June 25, 2013, and all three of them were standing trial.

He alleged that Umer was allegedly involved in killing his father, adding that while 36 prosecution witnesses had been produced against the suspects but the “trial court failed to properly frame charges against the accused despite the lapse of more than three years.”

Meanwhile, he said that Umer had been granted bail on medical grounds by the ATC.

On June 24, 2015, Nisar said the case was fixed before the ATC for framing of charges against the suspects but a relative of Umer claimed in court that Umer had been picked up by security agencies when he was travelling along with his cousins on June 20.

Subsequently, he said, the ATC judge stayed proceedings of the case contending that until and unless the suspect are not arrested, progress cannot be made in the case.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2017.

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