High-profile cases in Punjab: 63% terror suspects acquitted

Published: January 28, 2012
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Accused released due to lack of evidence, withdrawal of testimonies. DESIGN: FAIZAN DAWOOD

Accused released due to lack of evidence, withdrawal of testimonies. DESIGN: FAIZAN DAWOOD

LAHORE: 

Terror suspects in 282, or 63%, of 447 high-profile terrorism cases that had been tried, were acquitted by anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) in Punjab in 2011, official statistics obtained by The Express Tribune reveal. There are a total of 925 high-profile terrorism cases.

Most of the accused were acquitted by ATCs due to a lack of evidence. They include ring leaders of outlawed terrorist organisations Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Tehreek-e-Taliban and Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen. Some of the suspects were also acquitted due to resiling by witnesses.

The accused in 12 cases were acquitted due to compromise in compoundable cases; suspects in 183 cases were acquitted owing to resiling by witnesses or out-of-court compromise; and the accused of 87 cases were acquitted on merit, a brief summary of the Punjab public prosecution department reveal.

Of the 447 decided cases, the accused in 165 cases were convicted, while out of the total 925 cases, 142 cases were consigned or transferred to ordinary courts. Since December 31, 2011, as many as 336 cases have been pending before ATCs in Punjab.

Of the total 925 cases, 346 had been pending since 2010, while 579 cases were added in 2011.

Additional Inspector General of Police (Investigation Branch) Punjab Muhammad Aslam Tareen said that he identified the withdrawal of testimonies by witnesses – who are often threatened or intimidated by terrorist groups – as the primary cause for the low conviction rate. He suggested that the statements of witnesses recorded by the police should be made equivalent to confessional statement of the accused recorded before courts. However, he added, in some cases, the courts do not consider the witness statements as admissible evidence.

Besides resiling of witnesses, other factors that cause a lack of evidence are shortage of modern and scientific investigation, shortage of well trained /well equipped investigation staff, lack of proper coordination between prosecution and investigation staff, the additional IG said.

Chief Prosecutor of the public prosecution department Chaudhry Muhammad Jahangir, while talking to The Express Tribune, said that the prosecution department identified different loopholes in the prosecution of terrorism cases, which have led to so many acquittals. These include a lack of witness protection laws, defective investigations, lack of forensic and other technology that would aid the investigation process.

He added that the prosecution department, after meeting with the IG Punjab, has prepared a standard operating procedure (SOP) regarding the collection of evidence from the crime scene and preparing an FIR draft.

The department has also initiated a police training programme regarding terrorism cases, while the Crime Scene Management Unit (CSMU) is working on gathering forensic and technical experts. The purpose is to make the evidence admissible before the courts to ensure the conviction of the accused, the chief prosecutor stated.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Mard-e-Haq
    Jan 28, 2012 - 1:20PM

    Some of the suspects were also acquitted due to resiling by witnesses.

    And Pakistan is guaranteeing the safety of Mansor Ijaz?

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  • Jan 28, 2012 - 1:41PM

    Very poor administration of Shahbaz Shareef, Punjab has been completely failed in all sectors under the stubborn, emotional CM

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  • Jan 28, 2012 - 8:26PM

    It is not the lack of evidence but the cowardice of the prosecutors and judges. This is not the first time, there are many examples while dealing with blasphemy cases.

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  • Amjad
    Jan 29, 2012 - 1:53AM

    Actually, in some cases even judges have refused to hear cases. It is time to overhaul our judicial system and investigation mechanisms. Lets have efficient investigation authorities and competent and impartial judges who are willing to hear cases irrespective of fears like our law enforcement agencies and district administrations. Even though the salary of judges and their perks are six times higher than other officials. Salary of CJ and other judges is around $ 4500 per month and free housing, car, utility, crockery etc…. In return what are we getting other than news headlines and pending cases. CJ says government has failed, but he be kind enough to let us know why so many cases are pending and thousands of people are waiting for thier cases to be heard while judges are busy attending lawyers forums and melads !

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  • mfg hUSAAIN
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:27AM

    and so was the path to the destruction of Pakistan laid out in the halls of the craven judiciary…

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