‘Jundullah men’ still at large: Ashura blast trial halted
KARACHI, Dec 16: While police and Rangers have failed to recapture three suspected militants after their escape in 2010 from the City Courts premises, the file of the 2009 Ashura blast case pending trial before an anti-terrorism court has been gathering dust for around two and a half years.
The three suspected militants — Murtaza alias Shakil, Muhammad Saqib Farooqui and Wazir Mohammad — escaped from the city courts in 2010 and their accomplice Murad Shah was killed in an encounter with the police.
The suspects, said to be associated with the banned militant outfit Jundullah, were booked in four cases pertaining to attacks on Muharram processions in Dec 2009, including a devastating bomb blast in the main Ashura procession on M.A. Jinnah Road that had left over 45 people dead.
Following their escape, the ATC –III, where the four cases against them were pending trial, on June 26, 2010 abated the legal proceedings in all cases after the investigation officers submitted in court that they had escaped.
On June 20, 2010, the suspects were brought to the city courts in connection with another case. After the hearing, the suspects got freed from the police custody by their accomplices following an armed attack on the city courts premises and suspect Murad Shah was killed during the attack.
The ATC-III had issued life warrants against the three suspects and directed the police to arrest and produce them in court as soon as possible.
Although the suspects escaped around two and a half years ago, the city police and their special investigation units have so far failed to trace them. It is highly surprising that why the suspects were not tried inside the prison if the law-enforcers knew that they were high-profile criminals.
Investigators believed that they got sufficient evidence to link the suspects with the 2009 Moharram bombings. But despite this jail authorities had neither made any request for a jail trial nor had they made arrangements for proper security while taking them to the city courts.
Legal experts believe that long suspension in the trial of such high-profile cases might cost the cases of the prosecution as the delay in trial always benefited the accused party and damaged the prosecution case.
In most cases of inordinate delays in trial, prosecution witnesses go underground or change their residence due to fear and even in some cases they die. Besides, it is hard for a witness to remember the exact evidence for years while it is also a difficult task for IOs to maintain the case property, police files and keep in touch with his witnesses.
The suspects in the present cases were arrested after a shoot-out on Hawkesbay Road on Jan 23, 2010. They also confessed to having carried out the attacks on the Muharram processions.
They were charge-sheeted under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and their cases were sent to the ATC-III for trial and the court had supplied copies of documents to the suspects under Section 265-C of the criminal procedure code. However, they escaped before their indictment.
Suspects Murtaza and Saqib Farooqui were booked for their alleged involvement in the 2009 Ashura blast. The duo were also charge-sheeted in the Paposh Nagar blast that took place on Dec 26, 2009 (8th Muharram) when a Muharram procession was passing through and it left 13 people wounded.
Murad Shah and his absconding accomplices, Haider, Hasnain and Sajid, were charge-sheeted in a case pertaining to a low-intensity blast that targeted 9th Muharram procession in Qasba Colony on Dec 27, 2009. Seventeen people were wounded in the blast.All the four suspected militants were also facing trial in another case under Sections 4/5 of the Explosive Substance Act read with Section 7 of the ATA at the Sir Syed police station since the police claimed that they had seized explosive material on a lead given by the suspects.