In search of safety: ATCs to be relocated for second time in two years

The courts will be moved to the premises of the MTRI building in Clifton

Naeem Sahoutara April 10, 2015
Police officials can be seen escorting suspects to an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi. Ten ATCs of the city are being relocated for the second time to a safer place. PHOTO: FILE


The 10 anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) in the metropolis are being relocated once again — for the second time in two years — to ensure a safer place for the judges, the prosecutors and the accused.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the home department had on Friday informed the Sindh High Court (SHC) about the approval accorded by Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah to an official summary seeking the shifting of the ATCs to a safer location in Clifton.

The home authorities said that 10 ATCs would be moved to the premises of the Municipal Training and Research Institute (MTRI) of the local government department.

The courts, which were thought to be vulnerable to attacks by militants and criminals, will be housed on the premises of the MTRI building, where the accountability courts and anti-narcotics courts are already functioning. The high-profile trial of the then sacked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in then army chief Pervez Musharraf’s plane hijacking case was also conducted in the MTRI building.

In March 2013, the five ATCs were relocated to the Sindh Secretariat barracks from Sultanabad, where they were initially set up in residential bungalows in 1997.

The reason why the courts had to be moved from Sultanabad was the growing threat of attack by criminal and militant outfits, whose members were among most of the suspects being tried in these ATCs. Another reason was the lack of space, since the judges’ chambers were actually bedrooms, where only a few people could gather at the same time.

The number of ATCs was later doubled in order to ensure speedy trials within seven days, as prescribed under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, to effectively counter heinous crimes such as targeted killings, terrorism, kidnapping for ransom, extortion and murder.

Sources in the judiciary told The Express Tribune that the Sindh Secretariat barracks also proved not to be very safe, due to heavy public movement in the various government offices located there.

They explained that the SHC in-charge for the ATCs in the province, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, had in a recent meeting directed the provincial authorities to ensure the security of these courts, their judges, their prosecutors and the accused.

Under the high court’s directives, the relevant authorities floated a summary about the proposed change before the chief minister, who had approved the shifting of the courts to a safer venue.

The sources added that the home authorities on April 8 also wrote to the secretary of the services, general administration and coordination department to officially notify them about the shifting of the ATCs to the MTRI premises, which have enough space to accommodate the courts.

They informed The Express Tribune that the provincial finance secretary was also requested to immediately release funds worth Rs10 million, placing them at the disposal of the works and services department in order to allow the new accommodations to be prepared for the ATCs to be moved there.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2015. 


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