The anti-terrorism courts in Karachi have exonerated suspects in nearly 50 cases relating to militancy in the past three months. The provincial government, however, appears to be unmoved by their acquittals and subsequent release, sources told The Express Tribune.
The eight anti-terrorism courts have acquitted more than 34 suspects in around 46 cases, registered under charges of murder, attempt to murder, assault on law enforcers, encounters, extortion, kidnapping for ransom and possession of illegal weapons and explosives. Official sources told The Express Tribune that the anti-terrorism courts had ruled that the Karachi police and its various specialised investigation agencies had ‘failed’ to prove the allegations leveled by them against the accused.
The verdicts came in response to the Supreme Court’s directives issued to the anti-terrorism courts nationwide to expedite trials in militancy-related cases, following Islamabad’s renewed counter-terrorism policy after the Army Public School attack in Peshawar.
The judicial officers, who did not wish to be named, remarked that the failure of the prosecution in establishing their cases had put a question mark over the performance of the investigating agencies, particularly those that were meant to deal with heinous crimes such as murders, terrorism, kidnappings for ransom and extortion.
“The failure of the investigators in cases relating to attacks on law enforcement personnel, given the increasing killings of policemen in targeted attacks, would further demoralise the force and encourage the criminals,” remarked an officer, expressing concerns over the high acquittal rate.
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The federal government has also constituted an apex committee for the implementation of its national action plan in Sindh, but the body has repeatedly been expressing its dissatisfaction over the performance of the provincial government towards the improvement of law and order in the metropolis.
DESIGN: MOHSIN ALAM
The officials claimed that the Sindh Prosecutor General’s Office, which is duty bound to assist the investigating agencies in proving their cases in the trial courts, has yet to act on the matter.
“Under Section 25-H of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, the anti-terrorism court is duty bound to send the judgment as well as the record and proceedings of every case to the Sindh High Court so that anyone aggrieved by the verdict, be it the state or the defendants or the legal heirs of the victims, can challenge the verdicts,” they explained. The sources disclosed, however, that the prosecutor general’s office had not filed a single appeal against the acquittals and verdicts in such a large number of cases involving serious offences. “No appeal has so far been filed by the provincial government through the prosecutor general’s office,” a clerk told The Express Tribune, requesting anonymity.
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SC concerned over PG’s performance
At a recent meeting to review performance of the anti-terrorism courts in the province, the Supreme Court’s monitoring judge for ATCs, Justice Amir Hani Muslim, had taken serious exception to the absence of prosecutor general Sher Muhammad Sheikh in the meeting to ‘justify the prosecution’s performance and failures’ in the cases. The SC’s judge had directed the competent authority, who is the chief minister, to consider if another officer, who was actually able to discharge such an important job, could be appointed in Sheikh’s place.
ATC judge in each judgment noted with concern that the prosecution had ‘miserably’ failed to prove the charges against the defendants, who were to be acquitted by giving them the benefit of reasonable doubts in prosecution’s case and subsequently to be released. The judges also ordered the IG to take action against two investigation officers over faulty investigation. Among those acquitted are the alleged members of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Lyari gang-war groups and other criminal groups.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2015.