Taking notice of the escape of under-trial prisoners (UTPs) in Karachi, the Sindh High Court chief justice expressed displeasure over the security arrangements in place at the city’s anti-terrorism courts (ATCs).
Following the escape of four more inmates on Saturday, SHC Chief Justice Mushir Alam summoned the province’s home secretary, police chief and finance secretary on Monday to discuss the poor arrangements at the courts, where suspects charged in high-profile cases such as bomb blasts, sectarian killings and kidnappings are tried. He also ordered the police chief to seek out the services of experts to boost security at the ATCs. Justice Alam chaired a meeting of the presiding officers of ATCs following the incident as well.
As many as seven inmates have escaped from different courts in Karachi over the last three days. Four more under-trial prisoners, including two suspected Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members, escaped from separate courts in the city two days after three prisoners escaped from an ATC.
The alleged TTP members, Ghulam Ishaq Mehsud and Nazrab Khan, escaped from the city courts around noon on Saturday. They had been brought to the court of Judicial Magistrate Mohammad Afzal Roshan amid tight security for an identification parade, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials present in the court told The Express Tribune.
The two were suspected of involvement in the three bomb attacks targeting Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s election campaign in the city, which claimed a total of eight lives and left scores more injured, according to the officials. They had been arrested in a raid by the CID’s Anti-Extremist Cell on June 22 and were found to be in possession of 200kg of explosives, in addition to firearms.
The officials said the suspects managed to escape while they were being escorted back to the armoured personnel carrier that brought them to the court, after the hearing was adjourned. They pointed out that one of the witnesses had identified the two suspects.
According to eyewitnesses, the inmates escaped by taking advantage of the removal of handcuffs by the CID personnel before they were presented before the judge.
“They (CID personnel) did not even respond when the suspects tried to flee,” said eyewitness Abrar Ahmad. “The fact that they managed to escape without any resistance suggests that it was pre-planned,” he added.
When asked, CID and court police officials denied allegations that the suspects fled without facing resistance and said all facts would come to light once the investigation into the incident is complete.
Six CID officials – two inspectors and four constables – were arrested by the City Court police immediately after the incident. An FIR was also registered against the officials.
Talking to The Express Tribune, an officer of the court police, said they had been facing pressure from CID to charge the arrested officials under ‘ordinary sections, such as negligence’. He added they were also being pressured into removing the names of the CID inspectors from the FIR.
CID, however, denied any such allegations. “All six CID personnel are responsible [for negligence],” said CID SSP Chaudhry Aslam Khan. He said he was hopeful the escaped inmates would be apprehended soon.
Meanwhile, a man and his son escaped from the District Central City Court on Saturday. The duo, who faced fraud charges, escaped after their bail plea was rejected.
Earlier on Thursday, three under-trial prisoners, accused of kidnappings for ransom and alleged associated to Lyari gangs, escaped from the lock-up at an ATC.
Three high-profile Jundullah militants had previously escaped from court premises on June 19, 2010 as well. Their companion, a fourth prisoner, was killed during the escape attempt. They had been accused of involvement in the December 2009 bombing on an Ashura procession that killed over 40 people.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.