KARACHI: Taking note of the glaring discrepancies and shortcomings pointed out by the prosecution officer and the administrative judge of the Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATCs) in the investigation of a case of fake weapons licences, an ATC directed on Wednesday the Karachi Police chief and the Home secretary to get the case further investigated and re-submit the challan. The court also summoned the Home secretary, a representative of the Sindh Police chief and in-charge of the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) to appear in court on March 16 and submit their reports with regard to the case.
The hearing took place in ATC XVI, where the judge expressed discontentment with IO Sohail Akhtar Sulehri for presenting a routine challan, which was remiss of several key findings.
In its order issued on Wednesday, the court noted that according to the FIR and the charge sheet, an organisation was involved in the sale of forged weapons licences, which were being supplied to terrorist outfits, street criminals and target killers.
On August 8, 2018, the police claimed to have arrested two accused, Adnan Ahmed Khan Niazi and Saeed, from whom some licences, identity cards and ammunition was recovered. Acting on information gleaned from the two accused, the police on the same day arrested Wasay Jalbani, from whom more licences were seized. The arrested accused gave up the names of 18 other persons involved in the dealings, some of whom were government employees.
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The order notes that some of the accused in the charge sheet are "low-grade employees of the revenue department, some are concerned with the business of arms under licence, some are employees of arms dealer and some are arms holders". The charge-sheet also names staff of the South and East deputy commissioners' offices as well as the arms branch for their involvement in the crime.
The order refers to the prosecution's scrutiny note which states that IO Sulehri had "failed to cease the fake licenced weapons and send the same to the FSL to ascertain whether they had been used in any criminal activities". The prosecutor's office added that the IO had "failed to investigate the matter in the line of Section 4-A of the Sindh Arms Act, 2013…" as it seemed there was a violation of the said Act.
The order also includes observations of the proceedings held before the administrative judge of the ATCs, who questioned whether the authorised arms dealers were complying with Section 4-A of the Sindh Arms Act, 2013.
Section 4-A of the Act deals with the ballistic signature, whereby the arms dealer must provide biometric verification details as well as copies of the CNIC of the purchaser to the FSL for record-keeping. Further, the arms dealer must "provide the FSL two empty cartridges fired from the weapon purchased for registration of ballistic signature".
The arms dealer would also have to register the weapon in the FSL, along with the particulars such as the sales receipt, make, model, number and ballistic signature particulars. Only after the completion of these formalities would the purchaser be allowed to possess the weapon, the law states.
During the hearing held on February 26, 2019, the administrative judge noted that the IO failed to investigate the case from this angle. He added that the "accused and their counsels were not in knowledge regarding compliance of 4-A".
The administrative judge quoted the charge-sheet as saying that the Karachi Commissioner had constituted a committee to investigate the preparation of fake weapons licences, but no findings had been furnished thus far. "It seems that glaring violation of Section 4-A has been made by arms dealers but no action whatsoever has been taken by the executive," the judge noted.
On Wednesday, the judge of ATC XVI summoned the home secretary and other officials to submit a report, detailing whether Section 4-A was being complied with and what action was taken by them in cases where it was not being obeyed.
A special ATC sentenced accused Sohail Ahmed to death on two counts on Thursday in the Moroccan scholar murder case. The accused has also been sentenced to 17 years' imprisonment for possession of illegal weapons, attempt to murder and other charges.
The special ATC VI announced the verdict. Sohail Ahmed was found guilty for killing Khitab al Wadi, Abdul Majid al Ratwai and Suleman in 2013 when he opened fire at a Moroccan religious party in Sharae Noor Jahan area. After the incident, Sohail Ahmed was arrested while others were still at large. The court also ordered that the accused will have to pay Rs2 million as penalty sum to the family of deceased. Accused was also directed to submit an additional penalty sum of Rs60,000.
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The administrative judge of ATC extended the remand of eight accused belonging to Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London (MQM-L) till March 12 and sought the progress report. The hearing took place in Sindh High Court where the eight accused were presented. They include Syed Ali Raza, Mohsin Ali, Rehman alias Shahrukh, Sheharyar, Zameeud Din, Syed Waqas, Tanzeem and Anisur Rehman.
The investigation officer asked extension in remand. Court, accepting the request, directed the police to submit a progress report on next hearing.
According to police, the accused have confessed to the attack on Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and MQM offices attacks. The bomb device used in the attack on a Milad gathering in Gulistan-e-Johar on December 8, 2018 has also matched.
MQM-L members have confessed to their involvement in these incidents.
PSP member Zaheer, Naeem alias Mullah and MQM-Pakistan's Shakeel Ansari were murdered in these incidents while Azam got injured. Six people were injured in the MQM Milad gathering attack in Gulistan-e-Johar. SMGs, 9mm pistols, hand grenade and other explosive materials were recovered from the accused. They were arrested by Rangers.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2019.