ISLAMABAD: The dogged persistence of a man from Mirali in North Waziristan paid off after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the Islamabad Police to launch a probe against former CIA station chief Jonathan Banks for drone strikes inside Pakistan.
It took Abdul Karim Khan over eight years, five petitions in the IHC, and two applications before the subordinate judiciary to secure the court order.
The relief was announced after Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui accepted Khan’s petition, declaring the Islamabad Police’s report for transferring the case to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as illegal and unconstitutional.
Khan had lost his son, Zahinullah, who was a watchman at a government girls’ school, and a brother, Asif Iqbal, a primary school teacher in a drone strike carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Mirali on December 31, 2009.
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The petitioner’s lawyer, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, started the legal struggle, seeking accountability in 2010. He has been pursuing the criminal case ever since.
After several hearings spanning over two years, Justice Siddiqui issued the orders, instructing the Capital Police to launch a probe against the former CIA station chief and other accused nominated in the case, John A Rizzo, in Islamabad over the killing of Pakistani citizens in the drone attack.
The order also cancelled the district magistrate and Islamabad police’s order to transfer the FIR to FATA in 2015.
In the FIR, Khan stated that he “believes that Jonathan Banks is guilty of committing an offence u/s 302, 319, 109 PPC and for u/s 7 ATA or any other penal clause which might be attracted”.
During the hearing, Justice Siddiqui remarked, “If Aimal Kasi can be taken away from here, why can’t the former CIA station chief be brought back here.”
For nearly five years, the Islamabad police had been avoiding moving against CIA officials involved in drone strikes in Pakistan.
On April 7, 2015, the IHC bench ordered the IG Islamabad to register a criminal case against the former CIA station chief and CIA’s legal counsel John A Rizzo, holding them accountable for murder, conspiracy, waging war against Pakistan and terrorism.
The FIR was registered at the Secretariat police station in accordance with the court orders but transferred it later to the FATA secretariat, contending that the incident did not occur in their jurisdiction.
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Subsequently, the petitioner approached the IHC seeking cancellation of the order to transfer the FIR and the investigation to FATA as primarily there was no police force or investigative agency in tribal areas.
He also alleged that the impugned order of police and the district magistrate was mala fide and that the government was unwilling to pursue the case.
Justice Siddiqui, while addressing the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mirvais Niaz, asked whether it was not the responsibility of the state to protect the rights of citizens against foreign aggression.
Contrary to the DIG’s argument that the police had contacted the ministry of foreign affairs in this regard, Justice Siddiqui stressed that the matter had nothing to do with the norms of diplomacy but was primarily an issue concerning the right to life of Pakistani citizens.
He added that the court had to decide the matter in accordance with the law.
On Monday, the court asserted that the case should have been investigated in Islamabad and transferring it frustrated the court orders and the delivery of justice.
The court also summoned SHO Nawaz Bhatti who had allegedly transferred the FIR on orders of Justice Siddiqui. Bhatti appeared and tendered an unconditional apology, admitting that he had mistakenly written such remarks.
The court warned the SHO against such dereliction of duty.