KARACHI: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) allowed on Monday bail to a detained leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Amir Khan, after the submission of a surety worth Rs1 million.
The amount is the highest surety sum sought by any ATC at least this year given the unusual charges against the accused. The bail order, pronounced on Monday, was reserved earlier in last week after hearing of the arguments of both the sides.
Khan, a member of MQM's Rabita Committee, was taken into custody during the March 11 pre-dawn raid at the party headquarters. He was grilled by the Rangers for three months under the special powers the paramilitary force enjoys following the enactment of the Pakistan Protection Act.
He was arrested along with 100 other convicted and wanted suspects, such as Faisal Mahmood alias Mota, who was condemned to death in absentia in March last year for killing journalist Wali Babar, Ubaid Khursheed notoriously famed as K2, who was wanted in a number of high-profile policemen's killing cases, and Noman alias Nomi, the key absconding suspect in Advocate Naimat Ali Randhawa murder case.
At the end of his 90-day detention, a Rangers official filed a complaint against him at Azizabad police station where he was booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) on charges of harbouring aforementioned suspects and others and instigating them for terror acts in the city. However, the investigation of the case was conducted by the Gulberg police. The Sections 11V and 21J of the ATA can lead to a maximum imprisonment of life and to the forfeiture of the property within or outside the country, if the case is proven.
Khan's attorney, Shaukat Hayat, had argued before the ATC-II judge that the case against his client was lacking evidence as the prosecution failed to bring on record any single independent witness against him.
There were six witnesses, all of them law enforcers, named in the preliminary charge sheet submitted to the court, he said, but none of them had any testimony that could justify the offences put against the accused.
He admitted that Khan was the security incharge of the heavily guarded MQM headquarters Nine Zero when it was raided but denied that his client provided shelter to any criminal. Nine Zero houses hundreds of office bearers and staffers and thousands workers and supporters come there every day for routine affairs, he said, adding Khan could not possibly know about all of them. The arrest of anyone from Nine Zero with a criminal record does not suggest that the security incharge was providing them shelter, he said.
My client may be granted bail for he has already suffered a lot during his long detention just on suspicion, Hayat pleaded, arguing that the prosecution has yet to produce any incriminating evidence against the accused.
On the other hand, special public prosecutor Rana Khalid, who represented the paramilitary force, insisted the bail will affect the ongoing investigation. To which the judge asked him how the charge sheet was submitted in court if the investigations were not complete.
The prosecutor replied that a request was made to the home department to form a joint investigation team for the case but they have yet to hear back.
The judgment, which remained reserved for three days, favoured the defence when it was announced. Khan, who enjoyed better class in jail, wore a smile on his face and made victory signs as he faced the television cameras.
MQM will continue to fight for Pakistan as it is a true patriotic party being run by the offspring of those who laid their lives in the creation of this country, Khan said as he came out of the court, escorted by party leaders Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Kunwar Naveed and others.
Referring to the stark BBC report accusing the MQM of taking funds from India, Khan said the allegations were not new. "MQM is united under the leadership of Altaf Hussain and the conspirators will face defeat once again."
According to the court's order, Khan cannot leave the country during the trial and has been directed to cooperate with the investigators. The next hearing is on July 15 when charges are likely to be framed.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2015.