UTPs’ shifting delays trial: Fate of 60 terror cases hangs in the balance
KARACHI, Nov 4: While the apex court in its recent directive has asked all concerned to make it convenient for anti-terror courts to expeditiously decide hundreds of cases pending before them, it emerged on Sunday that legal proceeding in at least 60 cases involving dozens of suspected terrorists have been stalled just for want of custody of the under-trial prisoners who have been shifted from the Karachi Central Prison to jails in other parts of the province due to security concerns.
Sources said the prisoners, many of them were said to be associated with the banned outfits of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Jundullah, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, were relocated to Hyderabad and Sukkur jails in mid August after intelligence agencies reportedly informed the government that terrorists could target the prisons in Karachi to get them released and advised it to tighten security around the jails.
The delay in trial in the cases pending before the anti-terrorism courts in Karachi — mostly pertaining to sectarian killings and bomb blasts — is not only against the spirit of the anti-terror law but might also damage the prosecution side as it is generally believed that delayed trial mostly benefits the accused side.
According to the legal requirement under Section 19(7) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, the cases should have been decided within a period of seven days.
The sources said that the jail authorities had shifted the under-trial prisoners (UTPs) without the permission of the judges of trial courts. However, after receiving a show-cause notice from the trial courts, the jail officials informed the judges that the prisoners had been moved due to security concerns.
While the relatives of some UTPs had also moved the high court over the shifting, the authorities concerned have yet to come up with any decision whether the trial of the UTPs would be held in their present detention facilities or they would be sent back to the Karachi central prison, the sources said.
Legal experts believe that the shifting of the UTPs without the trial courts approval had no justification when the provincial government has the services of the paramilitary force of Rangers and police at its disposal. If there was any security threat, they should enhance the security of prisons, they observed while speaking to Dawn.
Criticising the move, a prosecutor at the ATCs said that the UTPs’ shifting without the consent of trial courts and using security concerns a basis was not only hampering the process of justice but also casting a negative impact on the witnesses who were supposed to testify against the accused.
Sharfuddin Memon, a consultant to the Sindh government on home affairs, was contacted to get his version about the shifting of UTPs but he declined to comment on the issue.
Among the UTPs shifted from Karachi due to security concerns are Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) suspected chief Mohammad Ajmal alias Akram Lahori, his accomplices Attaullah alias Qasim, Mohammad Azam alias Sharif, and other LJ activists including Sultan Mahmood alias Saifullah, Mufti Zakir Hussain Siddiqui, Rehmatullah, Waseem alias Barudi, Mohammad Abdullah alias Taimoor and Ziauddin alias Khan Mohammad alias Siddiq; Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) activists Abdul Razzaq and Qari Inayatullah; Karachi chief of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Akhtar Zaman alias Amir Sahab, his accomplices Sameenullah alias Shamim and Saeed Anwar alias Molvi Sahab, and other TTP activists Habibullah Mehsud, Farooq Mehsood, Naekul Islam Mehsud, Javed alias Punjabi, Rehman Mehsud, Attaullah Mehsud and Mohammad Dawood alias Waleed alias Ishaq; as well as Jundullah activists Mohammad Qasim Toori, Danish alias Talha, Abid Ali and Atta-ur-Rehman.
40 cases in ATC-I
After the UTPs’ shifting due to security concerns, the trial in around 40 cases was halted at the ATC-I.
Eight of these cases against Qasim Toori and his two accomplices, including those related to an attack on the convoy of a crops commander in 2004 and the January 2008 massive shootout with law-enforcement agencies in the Shah Latif Town, were pending trial.
An equal number of cases, including those pertaining to an encounter in Sohrab Goth area on Jan 15 last year that had left two policemen dead and eight others wounded, were pending against Habibullah Mehsud and five others.
Proceedings in five cases were pending against Akhtar Zaman and two others for attacking a Keamari oil refinery in September 2009.
A case was pending trial against Sultan Mahmood alias Saifullah and his three accomplices for the Nishtar Park bomb blast at an Eid Milad-un-Nabi (PBUH) congregation in April 2006.
Another case was pending against Waseem alias Barudi and Mohammad Abdullah alias Taimoor for killing Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker Raza Haider.
Two cases were pending against Atta-ur-Rehman before the ATC-I for want of custody.
Eight other cases, including those related to a bank heist followed by a shoot-out in Orangi Town, were pending trial against Shahjehan alias Arman, Allahuddin alias Ali Abdullah and Syed Mohammad Atif.
The trial in a case against retired major Haroon Ashique and others about the kidnapping of filmmaker Satish Anand for ransom was also stalled.
10 cases in ATC-II
Similarly, the proceedings in 10 cases also came to standstill at the ATC-II for want of custody.
The cases pertained to the rummy club bombing in Ghaas Mandi against Mustafa Rehman Orakzai and Umer Baloch, a policeman’s murder against Atta-ur-Rehman in Model Colony in 2003 and the murder of Ehteshamuddin Haider (the elder brother of former governor and federal minister retired lieutenant general Moinuddin Haider) in Solider Bazaar in 2001 against Attaullah and others.
13 cases in ATC-III
The trial in 13 cases was delayed at ATC-III owing to the shifting of UTPs due to security concerns.
No development was made in five cases against Akram Lahori and his accomplices Attaullah and Azam.
Three cases, including the murder of two scouts performing Muharram duty, against ASWJ activists Abdul Razzaq and Qari Inayatullah were still pending trial.
The case pertaining to the targeted killing of two lawyers was pending against Tauseef Ansari, Salahuddin and Maulana Rashid, who are said to be associated with the proscribed Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan.
Similarly, the proceedings in two cases against Mohammad Dawood alias Waleed, the suspected mastermind of the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine and Seaview bombings, were stalled after their shifting from Karachi due to security concerns.
The kidnapping and murder case of a local transporter who supplied fuel to Nato forces in Afghanistan against Ziauddin alias Khan Mohammad alias Siddiq were held up on similar grounds.