LAHORE: Unidentified assailants fired gunshots at the house of Justice Ijazul Ahsan in Model Town in two separate attacks on Sunday.
No one was injured in the attack on the house of the apex court judge, who was part of the bench that heard Panama Papers case against former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, which led to his disqualification from holding elected office. The judge is also on benches hearing various important suo moto cases.
A statement issued by the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) stated that the judge’s house situated at 112-H II Model Town was targeted twice; first in the wee hours on Sunday and later at around 9am. The bullets reportedly hit a door and a kitchen window.
The judge's house is a short distance from the Sharif Brothers' house in Model Town. It is a high-security area that is guarded by the Punjab Rangers, a heavy contingent of police, the Dolphin Squad, the Police Response Unit, and Model Town’s own security.
Punjab Safe City Authority CCTV cameras are also installed in the area.
FIR no 113/18 against the incident was registered at Model Town Police Station under Section 324 (attempt to murder), 427 (causing damage through mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Section 07 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
The complainant said in his statement that he was deployed at a picket outside 112/H2 Model Town. In the early morning of April 15, he was on duty with a Pakistan Rangers official when they heard shots fired.
When they approached the judge's house, they found a bullet shell near the front gate. A bullet mark was also visible on the gate of the house, he added.
Police and Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) officials also visited the spot to collect forensic evidence. After the teams left, they heard another gunshot and the sound of a bullet hitting the floor at around 9am at the southern side of the house. When he went there, he found another bullet shell.
Meanwhile, a four-member team headed by DIG Investigations Sultan Chaudhry was formed to investigate the matter. Other members of the team include SSP Investigations Mubashir Maikan, CIA SP Nadeem Abbass, and the Model Town SP.
However, despite heavy security arrangements and surveillance, no one saw the suspects leaving or entering the area. The investigators of different law enforcement agencies also collected and analysed CCTV footage but could not spot the unidentified suspects.
Strongly condemn the firing at Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan's house. These Sicilian-mafia-like tactics to pressurise senior judiciary are unacceptable in any democracy. PTI stands firmly behind the Judiciary & Rule of Law & this is one reason behind our 29th April Minar-i-Pakistan jalsa— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 15, 2018
After learning of the incident, Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar rushed over to Justice Ahsan's home. The CJP also summoned Punjab IG Arif Nawaz Khan, who along with other senior police officers including DIG Investigations Chaudhry Sultan and the Model Town SP went to the scene to collect evidence.
Teams of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA), the Crime Scene Unit, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and other law enforcement agencies also visited the site for investigations.
The investigators collected forensic and digital evidence (CCTV footage) from the crime scene and recorded witness statements.
They also brought in ballistics experts to determine the nature of the attack. The investigators also decided to conduct geo-fencing of the area at the time of both reported attacks.
Despite all these efforts, till the filing of this report, they had failed to determine whether it was an incident of aerial firing or a targeted attack.
A senior police officer on the condition of anonymity told The Express Tribune that a security official had spotted a bullet shell in front of the gate at night. This was being described as the first attack. Another bullet was spotted in the morning by an employee of the house in what was believed to be the second attack. He said a minor damage was witnessed on both points.
It seemed as the bullets had only left scratches on both the spots after being hit, he said, adding that the bullets were spotted by two different individuals. However, no one witnessed the incident of firing or heard the gunshots.
The officer said that further facts would be ascertained after thorough investigations.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister of Mian Shahbaz Sharif ordered the IGP to submit to him a report of the incident.
Police were investigating the matter further. A contingent of Pakistan Rangers has also been deployed near the house.
The attack on Justice Ahsan’s residence drew condemnations from the country’s top leadership.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi strongly condemned the incident of firing and directed the authorities concerned to arrest the attackers immediately.
Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) also condemned the incident. An ISPR spokesperson said all the stakeholders should ensure the security of state institutions.
In a statement, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also denounced the attack. She said Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif had directed the relevant officials to immediately arrest the culprits.
"Such miscreants should be exposed as early as possible," the minister said.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan took to the social media to condemn the attack with a thinly-veiled accusation. In a tweet, he said, “These Sicilian-mafia-like tactics to pressurise senior judiciary are unacceptable in any democracy. PTI stands firmly behind the judiciary and rule of law.”
Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sherry Rehman said, “The intimidation of judges at any levels that too by violence must be condemned by all.” She said that those involved directly or indirectly in the firing incidents on the residence of Justice Ahsan cannot be allowed to go scot-free.
The attack also drew condemnations from the country’s legal fraternity. Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Executive Committee Chairman Shabbir Shar and Vice Chairman Kamran Murtaza denounced the incident.
They maintained that the legal fraternity firmly stood by the judiciary and supported its courageous actions for the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution.
While terming the attack as an utter failure of the government and its law enforcement agencies, they demanded of the authorities to immediately arrest the culprits.
SCBA President Kaleem Khursheed said the planned strike had been called off. "The chief justice has asked us to withdraw the strike call in the larger public interest," he said.
Earlier, Chief Justice Nisar extended his thanks and gratitude to all bar councils for their unflinching support for standing with Supreme Court during difficult moments.
However, the chief justice also appealed to all bar councils to call off the strike scheduled for today (Monday). He also requested the legal fraternity to attend the courts tomorrow for sake of dispensation of justice to litigants whose cases are already fixed for hearing in different courts.
“Litigant parties will come from far-flung areas to attend courts. A strike will not only hinder routine court proceedings but also hurt the expectations of people,” he said.
The PBC leaders said that lawyers will appear in courts wearing black armbands and will also hold protest meetings in their bar rooms.