The Chief Justice of Sindh High Court, Justice Musheer Alam, taking suo motu notice on the killing of lawyers has summoned Sindh police chief and other officials on Thursday, asking them to submit a report on the incidents of targeted killings of the members of the Bar.
The representatives of the SHC and Karachi bar associations were also put on notice after three lawyers were gunned down in Karachi on Wednesday.
Badar Munir Jaffery, his son Kafeel Jaffery and nephew Shakeel Jaffery were killed when unidentified men on motorcycles intercepted their car near Pakistan Chowk and sprayed it with bullets. The fourth occupant of the car Babar Ali has been admitted to Civil hospital.
The home minister has suspended the Aram Bagh SHO and has tasked the police with submitting a report within 48 hours. A high-powered inquiry committee was also constituted under the supervision of DIG South Commandant Shaukat Ali Shah to investigate the killings. Other members of the committee are SSP South Naeem Sheikh, Saddar SP Tariq Dharejo, Crime Range SP Niaz Ahmed Khosa and chief of the Special Investigation Unit, SSP Shahjahan Khan.
The police investigators have started recording the statements of the witnesses and are trying to put together sketches of the culprits with the help of witnesses. They are also trying to secure CCTV camera footage from around the crime scene.
According to some witnesses, a police constable was also present at the spot but he did not act. “A policeman was standing nearby, but he instead of targeting the culprits, resorted to aerial firing,” said a witness.
Investigating officers also suspect that the killing of the three lawyers could be a reaction of the targeted killing of an Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat legal adviser who was gunned down on Tuesday and the killing of senior lawyer Maqboolur Rahman who was fatally attacked on January 17. Another inquiry committee member SSP Khosa believes Wednesday’s killings are a reaction to the recent sectarian murders.
Meanwhile, the office bearers and representatives of bar organisations have expressed their concern over the failure of the government and administrative machinery to stop these kind of attacks against members of the legal fraternity.
Muhammad Yasin Azad, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, while calling for a country-wide protest strike on Thursday, demanded the government arrest the killers within 24 hours.
Iftikhar Javed Qazi, the vice chairman of the Sindh Bar Council, regretted that “particular segments of society were being targeted. First, the doctors were attacked and killed, followed by teachers and ulema and now lawyers are being targeted to terrorise the common man.”
Khalid Mumtaz, the secretary of the Karachi Bar Association, said that “the anguish and anger of lawyers could well be imagined as Kafeel was a lively person and active in bar politics.”
Some other leaders of the bar warned that people should forget about being defended in courts if targeted killings continue. “Really, this is the kind of situation in which people won’t find lawyers,” said Haider Imam Rizvi, the general secretary of the KBA. Lawyers are only doing their job of seeking justice for their clients. “We don’t consider political or sectarian affiliations when someone wants to hire us. Why can’t people understand this?”
At least seven lawyers have been killed in January 2012 alone under similar circumstances where gunmen intercepted them near courts or their offices, pumped bullets from 9mm pistols and made their escape good. Rizvi said that 16 lawyers were killed last year in Karachi. “I don’t know any other city in the world where so many lawyers have been killed in a matter of few months.”
The angry lawyers talked about the Supreme Court’s order in suo motu proceeding on Karachi’s law and order. The SC had specifically asked the authorities to submit reports on a regular basis to a commission, which has not been formed yet.
The Karachi Bar Association also became a party to the suo motu proceedings and pleaded its case, seeking concrete action besides appropriate compensation to the legal heirs of the lawyers.
“We have to make sure that Supreme Court’s orders are implemented in letter and spirit,” said Nadeem Qureshi, an advocate of the superior judiciary. He wondered why lawyers appearing in similar cases in Lahore or Islamabad were not targeted.
Another advocate of the Supreme Court, Shaukat Ali Shaikh, said in most cases lawyers have no agenda of their own when appearing on behalf of an accused associated with a sectarian or a political outfit.
Chief Justice Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry expressed his concern over the unabated violence during a visit to the city last week. He had already directed SHC CJ Musheer Alam to summon the police chief, Rangers DG and home secretary on Saturday (January 28) to review law and order situation in Karachi, investigations into murder cases of lawyers and measures taken to protect the community.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2012.