KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered on Tuesday the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate the May 12 carnage in the port city that left several dead in 2007.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice KK Agha also directed the formation of a judicial tribunal to scrutinise the case, besides directing to reopen 65 other cases that had earlier been declared A-class. The bench requested the SHC chief justice to appoint a judge to monitor the progress of the cases.

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As per the ruling, the court has ordered fresh investigations into the May 12 carnage and sought a bi-weekly report detailing the progress in the investigations. The final decision in the case will be announced on the basis of the findings of the JIT and the judicial tribunal, the court said.

JIT’s role

With regard to the functions of the JIT, the court directed it to determine the persons responsible for the disruption of peace in the city on May 12, 2007. The tribunal will also determine who ordered to block the roads and create a law and order situation in the city. It would also answer lingering questions about whether there was a consensus between the provincial and federal governments to hinder the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry from attending an event in the city.

On whose orders did an enraged crowd hold the Malir Courts hostage, the court questioned. The judges also demanded details of contact between law enforcement agencies before and after May 12. What orders were passed by the authorities to control the situation, the court asked, in reference to the failure of the law enforcement agencies to bring the situation under control. What measures did the police adopt to remove the tankers and containers to block the roads? Why was the firing on offices of private TV channels not stopped? What security arrangements were made for the CJP’s arrival? Did members of a particular political party attack those coming out to welcome the CJP?

The court order also directs the JIT to determine if a political party or any of its office-bearers were directly involved in the events of the day, besides addressing the question of why the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Peoples Party and the Awami National Party were all allowed to hold rallies on the day.

Case history

Earlier this year on the anniversary of the May 12 incident, CJP Mian Saqib Nisar had directed the SHC to decide the case within three months. The petitioner, Iqbal Kazmi, had requested for a judicial commission to be formed to investigate the incidents and determine the facts that lead to the deaths of so many people.

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The petition names former president Pervaiz Musharraf, the then interior minister, MQM founder Altaf Hussain and incumbent Karachi Mayor Karachi Wasim Akhtar as respondents, besides claiming that the MQM’s members engaged in acts of violence and vandalism on Musharraf’s orders.

Over the course of the hearings, federal and court facilitators presented arguments in favor of the formation of a judicial commission. The Sindh government had opposed the formation of a commission. On Tuesday, however, Murtaza Wahab, the advisor to the chief minister on law, said that the “tragedy of May 12 as well as Baldia were tragedies against the society”. He added that the government would extend its full cooperation to the court and implement its orders.

Public prosecutors, in their arguments, said that a larger bench of the SHC, had in 2018 termed the case unsuitable for hearing. Over 11 years had passed since the incidents and there was no further need for investigation, the prosecutors argued. The larger bench had also ordered payment of compensation to the victims, who had all been paid, they said. Kazmi, in his plea, had observed that on May 12, 2007, havoc was wrecked upon the city on the arrival of then CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry. The CJP’s entourage was stopped at Karachi the Airport, while around 50 people had lost their lives in firing and vandalism incidents across the city.

At the moment, seven different cases relating to the May 12, 2007, incidents are under trial at two different anti-terrorism courts.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2018.