The overcast skies reflected the mood in the Anti-Terrorism Courts on Monday morning, as the staff struggled to work in the dark since the power supply was disrupted.
According to court staff members, they had heard that a violent protest in the area resulted in damage to the electricity infrastructure on Sunday. However, a spokesperson for the Karachi Electric Supply Company told The Express Tribune that there had been “no such reported outage.”
At least one judge continued to hear cases despite not having any electricity in the courtroom. At another courtroom, a staff member typed out the day’s cause list on a typewriter. At other courtrooms, no updated cause lists were available because the power was cut on Sunday night.
The transcripts of proceedings are also typed up on computers - which couldn’t be used. While there is said to be a generator on the premises, it could not be operated on Monday. In the past, courtrooms have delayed proceedings until the power supply is restored or continued to work throughout.
To boot, the courtrooms looked abandoned – only a limited number of lawyers turned up since there was a Sindh Bar Council strike to protest the new contempt of court law passed by parliament.
While the low conviction rate at the anti-terrorism courts and loopholes in the anti-terrorism laws are often cited in any critique of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism strategy, the conditions in which thee courts operate are often ignored by policymakers and analysts.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Anti-Terrorism Court II (ATC II) heard an investigating officer explain why a forensic team had not returned all the bullets sent to it for an examination.
One bullet was sent back as a sample in most cases and the forensic team kept the rest. “I assume they destroy them,” the officer told the court.
The court also heard from an investigating officer who was unable to produce prosecution witnesses because of the “situation in the city”.
“The witness and the accused are related to each other,” he said, “and since the police operation, the hostility has increased.” These were witnesses scheduled to appear in attempted murder cases dating to 2011 and registered at Lyari’s Kalakot police station. The FIRs of the cases list charges of attempted murder, common intent and violation of sections 3 and 4 of the Explosives Act.
The court noted that the investigating officer had had at least 11 days since the last hearing to produce the witness; however the officer said that he would be able bring them to the next hearing.
He also told the court that he had to leave because there was a meeting at the SP City’s office. The court told him to put this reason down in writing.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.
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