Why can’t Pakistan convict any terrorists? Part I – by Rabia Shakoor and Eqbal Alavi

Let’s consider the acquittals in high profile terrorism cases in May 2010 alone:

On May 30, Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid was acquitted in the Children’s Library case.

On May 25, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals filed by the authorities challenging the release from house arrest of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed (ordered by the Lahore High Court).

On May 13, anti-terrorism Court No. 2 of Rawalpindi acquitted 9 suspects detained on the suicide attack on Surgeon General Mushtaq Beg of the Pakistan army.

On May 5, the Rawalpindi Anti Terrorism court acquitted four suspects in the Marriott bombing case, including Dr. Usman who has been implicated in various terror attacks including the attack on the Sri Lankan team and the GHQ attack.

The question remains. Why can’t Pakistan convict any terrorists?

In this article by Vidya Rana, a police official makes a very interesting observation about the lack of information sharing by the intelligence agencies:

To a question on this particular issue, a police officer expressed his sheer frustration, which, according to him, emanates from a host of factors.

“We are being used as a ‘pick-n-drop’ service to terrorist-suspects. Police usually arrest a terrorist on tip-off of intelligence agencies. The little information we gather during preliminary investigation, it goes to media to justify the arrest. After taking physical remand, the arrested is handed over to those who provided tip-off for further investigation. But after submitting the challan, police find it difficult to substantiate the charges with evidence deemed concrete by the court,” the police officer said adding that it all happens because investigating agencies do not provide complete evidence to police which can land the terrorist in serious legal trouble during the court proceedings and the subsequent judgment.

Another police officer said they do not have any mechanism to gather relevant evidence due to legal and procedural complications.

“Even if police have arrested someone red-handedly, their witness is not acceptable in a court of law. Not only this, we do not have data base on terrorists, neither recording tracking system is available. We are dependent on other security agencies and they provide us with some record at will,” he explained.

This account calls into question the role of the intelligence agencies. why do they only selectively provide information to the police and the prosecution? Shouldn’t their primary job be to assist in the arrest and conviction of terror suspects? Instead the police is left, as this official describes it, as simply being a ‘pick and drop service’ to terrorism suspects.

It’s no secret that many of these terrorists have at one time been cultivated as “assets” for these agencies. A good example is Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid. It’s possible that intelligence agencies are not willing to share enough information with the police and the prosecution in order to ensure a successful conviction in case that information will implicates elements within the intelligence agencies themselves. Two examples will suffice to show the dubious dedication of the military leadership to successful terrorist trial and prosecution.

The first example is the case of the GHQ attack of 2009. Despite a terrorist being caught alive (which should have been a major source of information and an important tool in preparing the prosecution), the military leadership’s approach to investigating the attack on its own headquarters seemed non-serious. Despite a report being prepared and submitted to General Kayani based primarily on the evidence provided by Dr. Usman (the surviving terrorist), no criminal action was taken against him or any of the individuals or organizations identified in the report.

The second example is in the case of Major Adnan who was dismissed from the army for reportedly spying for banned terrorist outfits. After the LA Times picked up the story and connected it to the Faisal Shehzad case, the military leadership made every attempt to deny and minimize Major Adnan’s role in the Times Square case. Amazingly, despite Maj. General Athar Abbas admitting, on May 29, that Major Adnan had had contact with banned organizations, Major Adnan was released and sent home to his family where the media was able to contact him and verify that he had indeed been released. The release of Major Adnan defies all logic – how can the military possibly release a senior officer who has confirmed links to banned terrorist organizations and then claim that it is seriously interested in counter-terrorism?

It was further frightening when a report from the Secretary Prosecution, Government of Punjab confirmed the lack of cooperation from the intelligence agencies. The report stated:-

the accused remained under probe with the agencies prior to the arrest (by police), but no positive information was passed onto the local police and thus the role played by the agencies couldn’t be availed to probe the guilt of the accused

According to police officials, no technical evidence was handed over to the police like forensics, NADRA record, mobile record, findings of polygraphic machines, etc. They say acquiring such things is not possible without excellent personal relations with the intelligence officials as it is done only through the sweet will of the keepers of such record and there is no legal force for pressuring them. The police even don’t have free access to NADRA record as they pay Rs 25 for verification of a computerised record, they say.

The report complains that:

“No one from any agency facilitated nor any liaison was made from any person to pursue the prosecution in the court of law
The will of the intelligence agencies to ensure access to government data is limited to them is highly deplorable. It has been revealed earlier that the direct taps on cellular connections is limited to the ISI and it is vehemently guarding its exclusive access. Such pity fist fights to maintain dominant position within the intelligence community is objectionable since it limits the effectiveness of counter terrorism operations. Not only do the local law enforcement agencies have to “apply” to the ISI for a tap, they have complained that such requests take sometimes even days to be completed rendering them useless. If these highly expensive technical facilities provided to the intelligence agencies cannot be used effectively in prosecuting the apprehended terrorists, then the usefulness of these gadgets and equipment becomes diminished.

The will of the intelligence agencies to ensure access to government data is limited to them is highly deplorable. It has been revealed earlier that the direct taps on cellular connections is limited to the ISI and it is vehemently guarding its exclusive access. Such pity fist fights to maintain dominant position within the intelligence community is objectionable since it limits the effectiveness of counter terrorism operations. Not only do the local law enforcement agencies have to “apply” to the ISI for a tap, they have complained that such requests take sometimes even days to be completed rendering them useless. If these highly expensive technical facilities provided to the intelligence agencies cannot be used effectively in prosecuting the apprehended terrorists, then the usefulness of these gadgets and equipment becomes diminished.

Apart from these larger open questions, there are a number of other reasons why the number of terror convictions have been so low.

Weak / poorly prepared prosecution and intimidated witnesses not appearing in court. As an example, consider the Marriott bombing case.

The [counsel for the accused] said that the prosecution had named 128 witnesses and only 83 recorded their statements, nine witnesses had expired, five foreigners had left the country and the rest did not appear in the court.

Giving details of allegations against the acquitted men and three men who were absconding, the lawyer said that police had accused the four arrested men of facilitating Zakarullah, the main suicide attacker who had driven an explosives-laden dumper truck into the hotel.

Similarly In the case of Malik Ishaq a terrorist leader of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, no fewer than eight witnesses were killed by Malik Ishaq’s network of terrorists during the course of his trial.

“Hosing away” of evidence and counter-productive interference by intelligence agencies: The UN Commission report on the Benazir Bhutto murder describes in detail the deliberate tampering of crime-scene evidence that took place shortly after the attack on BB. Hosing down of the crime scene, hosing down of her car, etc. In the Marriott bombing case, also, the counsel for the defense pointed out that contrary to the account of the Secretariat police, the suspects had not been arrested by the police but had been picked up by the intelligence agencies “a few days after the attack” and had apparently spent some days in their custody before being turned over to the police. In the Daniel Pearl kidnapping case, Omar Saeed Sheikh surrendered himself to Brigadier Ejaz Shah who had reportedly been his “handler” in the ISI and spent a week in his custody before his “arrest”. Such unexplained irregularities make it almost impossible to successfully build a case for the prosecution.

The the intelligence agencies operate under SOPs from executive branches which have no legal value. They have no legal provisions available for apprehending suspects and this can be done only through the police, legally. Most of they times they apprehend suspects on their own and later the Police has to furnish backdated FIRs and alter their roznamcha to show that the suspect was apprehended by them. This becomes a problem because if the defender’s lawyer catches this discrepancy, then it can become a technicality that will result in acquittal.

Moreover, in one case the intelligence agencies handed over the suspects one year after apprehending them. How is the prosecution supposed to present this detention as legal when the only allowed provision is holding a suspect for 24 hours before it becomes compulsory to present him before a magistrate and get a judicial remand?

In the case of the prosecution of the attack on the Surgeon General and the attack on the AFPMGI bus, it is horrifying to note that the affected department (Pakistan Army) not only failed to file an FIR, nobody from the concerned department testified in court nor did it show any interest in the prosecution. The concerned department conducted its own investigation, did not share its findings with the either the JIT or the Police and according to the report, “neither assisted nor showed any interest in the trial of the accused”. Such actions are deplorable and are extremely conducive to acquittals of guilty terrorists.

As the noted constitutional lawyer Babar Sattar said:-

This gap between the requirements of the law and our evolving practice of military agencies taking a lead role in investigating terror attacks then gets bridged by fabricating a bogus story about backdated arrest of the accused by the police and consequent recovery of weapons. The aim of such exercise is to satisfy the procedural requirements of the law. But it doesn’t work. A trial, simply put, is the story of a crime being told by the prosecution. The arrest or the accused and recovery of evidence linking the accused to the crime are the two foundational pillars of the prosecution’s case.

But when the story weaved by the police and the prosecution is simply not true, as it has to camouflage actual facts and the role played by military agencies, even a half decent defense attorney is able to poke holes in it and create doubt. The benefit of this doubt caused by the procedural impropriety practiced by state agencies then goes to the accused who walks away scott-free. And the rest of us keep scratching our heads and wondering why our judges and our criminal justice system fail to put the bad guys behind bars.

Intimidation of the prosecution and judges: consider this contemporary account of the famous Daniel Pearl kidnapping case which describes in detail the intimidation of the lead prosecutor, Raja Qureshi. The defence lawyer of the accused had accused the prosecutor of being guilty of blasphemy and informed the judge that he would be going to hell. Bomb threats were made to the city jail in Karachi which led to the removal of the trial to the city jail in Hyderabad. The Washington Post journalist was a witness to Raja Qureshi receiving threatening phone calls in his home.

Recently, the judge presiding over a case involving Sufi Mohammad in the ATC Malakand, was not only threatened but the Taliban paid a visit to his house and threatened his family as well who were living in Peshawar.

State prosecutors are expected to perform under the worst circumstances: the extended networks of terror suspects threaten their security, and complainants and witnesses refuse to testify in ATC proceedings for fear of reprisals. On a more prosaic level, prosecutors have no access to offices, legal resources or clerical staff, and few funds are available from the government to revamp the ATC infrastructure.

Intimidation of the investigative agencies: An example is the attack on March 9 on an office of the interrogation centre of the Special Investigation Agency (SIA) of the Punjab government while Dr. Usman, the prime suspect in the Marriott case was allegedly being interrogated there.

Lack of interest of the media and lack of public monitoring of terror cases: In countries like India and the United States, high profile terror cases are constantly monitored by journalists and civil society. In Pakistan, due to a) the media’s right wing bias and b) the secretive nature of anti-terrorism court trials there is little interest or knowledge among the public and the press of a terrorism trial while it is in progress. The media and the public are simply left in the dark and seem to show little interest in cases that should be at the forefront of public attention. They are then left mystified when there is a small news report that a high profile terrorist who in some cases (such as Maulana Abdul Aziz) was even caught on camera committing the crime he has been accused of, is released with little explanation by the courts.

Part 2 of this series: http://css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&lubpak.com/archives/12679
Part 3 of this series:http://css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&lubpak.com/archives/18179

9 responses to “Why can’t Pakistan convict any terrorists? Part I – by Rabia Shakoor and Eqbal Alavi”

  1. It is indeed sad and ineptitude of our legal system to prosecute terror suspects. These suspects look for lacunae in the system and go scott-free. On top of that, the media patronizes them on a regular basis.
    On the matter of intimidation with respect to fatwas being given by defense, I suggest that the government form a committee of ulemas to give out fatwas on matters on a fast track basis. As far as I know, no judge will be willing to give out a judgement or even sit on a case if there are chances that he will be labeled unholy or blasphemous.
    Well written Rabia

  2. Why can’t Pakistan convict any terrorists? [LUBP]

    Because there are not Terrorists in Pakistan, the real threat is as under, Read Carnegie Endowment Research Paper:

    The fear of an Islamic threat has been the driving force behind most Western countries’ foreign policies toward Pakistan in recent years. The possibility that violent Islamists will
    kill President Pervez Musharraf, throw Pakistan into turmoil, take over the country
    and its nuclear weapons, and escalate regional terrorism has dominated the psychological
    and political landscape. Such fears have usually led to support of the Pakistani military as
    the only institution able to contain the danger. But the Islamist threat is neither as great nor as autonomous as many assume. True, Pakistan has experienced more than its share of religious violence, both sectarian and jihadi. But serious law-and-order problems do not mean the fate of the state is at stake. No Islamic organization has ever been in a position to politically or militarily challenge the role of the one and only center of
    power in Pakistan: the army. On the contrary, the Pakistani Army has used Islamic organizations for its purposes, both at home and abroad. Islamist organizations bal-
    ance the power of rival mainstream political parties, preserving the army’s role as national arbiter. The army has nurtured and sometimes deployed violent Islamists in Afghanistan (with U.S. support at first), Kashmir, and other hot spots on the subcontinent. Pakistan: The Myth of an Islamist Peril By Frederic Grare Publisher: Carnegie Endowment Policy Brief #45, February 2006

    Click on link for the full text of this Carnegie Paper http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/45.grare.final.pdf

    Upload the paper on your blog.

  3. ریالوں اور درہموں سے جبیں بھر رہی ہیں ،مدرسے تعمیر ہو رہے ہیں ،عوام کے ٹیکسوں کا پیسا فوج کو اور فوج ان جہادیوں کو پال رہی ہے .ان جہادیوں کے لیہ پاکستان جنّت ہے اور دنیا میں کوئی ملک ایسا نہیں جہاں اتنی آزادی ہو ،جہاں چاہو مدرسہ بناؤ ،جو چاہے کتابیں اور اخبار نکالو ،اپنی فوج بناؤ اور جو چاہے خطبہ دو اگر پکڑے بھی جائیں تو عدالتوں سے چھوٹ جائیں گے .اتنی آزادی انہیں تو کسی اسلامی ملک میں نہیں جتنی ایک غیر اسلامی حکومت جو جو ان کے بقول پاکستان ہے حاصل ہے .

  4. Shades of grey
    By Asad KharalPublished: August 5, 2012
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    Despite also being named in at least two attacks on foreigners in Pakistan, Malik Ishaq is a free man.
    The frequency with which terrorists are acquitted by courts is considered one of the major failings of Pakistan’s judicial system. But where does the fault truly lie?
    Fida Hussain Ghalvi’s long fight to put Malik Ishaq, the leader of banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, behind bars appears to have been in vain. Despite having warded threats to his own life for several years and losing dozens of family members, today Ghalvi is resigned to the fact that Ishaq will walk free.
    Fifteen years ago, Ghalvi was one of the four men who had boldly testified against Ishaq, under arrest for killing 12 members of Ghalvi’s family in a sectarian murder. Ishaq and several other accused men were on trial in 44 different cases for the murder of 70 people from the Shia sect and Ghalvi and others had been summoned for an identification parade. At long last, justice seemed to be at hand.
    “At the very onset, all of us pointed to Ishaq [as the killer], but he appeared least perturbed,” recalls Ghalvi. “In the presence of the judge and the deputy superintendent of the jail, Ishaq brazenly turned to us and said: ‘Dead men don’t talk.’”
    Despite this blatant threat and other, often violent pressure tactics, the four witnesses refused to back down. “Eight people — five witnesses and three of their relatives — were killed [during the trial],” says Ghalvi. “Ishaq unleashed his entire network against his opponents, killing witnesses, threatening judges and intimidating police, leading to the eventual collapse of all prosecution against him.”
    “Over the course of the trial, which went on for a decade, we appeared at least a hundred times before the court,” recounts Ghalvi.
    And yet, predictably but no less disappointingly for Ghalvi, Ishaq was acquitted despite the testimonies and identification. “He escaped conviction in every case due to ‘lack of evidence’ and was eventually released from jail,” says Ghalvi, with resignation.
    Ghalvi’s resignation is perhaps borne out of what he went through after the case was closed. The vengeful militants were baying for blood and for his defiance, Ghalvi was in their direct line of fire. “Ishaq, with seven others, attacked a majlis that our family had organised for a deceased aunt in our native village of Kot Chaudhry Sher Muhammad Ghalvi. Twelve of my family members were killed in the attack,” he says.
    Aggrieved he may be, but Ghalvi is clear about why Ishaq walks a free man and believes that there was a lack of cogent evidence in the case. “Poor investigation and prosecution as well as the case file lacking concrete evidence led to the acquittal,” he admits.
    In July 2011, amid intense public outcry, the Supreme Court acquitted Ishaq after he had served 14 years in jail as an under-trial prisoner. Outside Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore’s central prison, Ishaq was given a hero’s reception by leaders of yet another outlawed militant group, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (now operating freely as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) and soon after his release, he went on a so-called ‘preaching’ tour throughout Punjab.
    It was only after the September 2011 attack in Mastung, Balochistan, for which the LeJ claimed responsibility, that the Punjab government finally detained Ishaq under the Maintenance of Public Order Act. Ishaq was released in January after several stints in detention, during which his family was provided ‘sustenance’ by the Punjab government. Although under the watch of intelligence agencies, Ishaq attended a Jamaatud Dawa-Difa-e-Pakistan Council rally in Multan in February.
    Today, Ishaq is a free man despite also being named in at least two attacks on foreigners in Pakistan — the Sri Lankan cricket team attack in Lahore in 2009, which he allegedly planned from within his jail cell, and the assassination of the Iranian cultural consul Muhammad Ali Rahimi in Multan in 1997.
    But he is not the only known terrorist to have slipped through the cracks of Pakistan’s judicial system.
    There is also the notorious Akram Lahori who, along with Basra and Ishaq, was one of the founders of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
    Lahori, who is named in the killings of many Shias in Karachi as well as in the Gojra riots, has been under trial in various cases for years without a single conviction as yet. Even when we look beyond these admittedly high profile cases, we find that terrorism cases, in general, tend to fail in the courts. In the court of public opinion, this results in disdain for what is seen to be an overly politicised judiciary.
    When sentences are handed down to politicians the question is always asked: why do the courts move so quickly in these cases but drag their feet when it comes to terrorists? A similar reaction was seen when the rangers accused in the shooting of Sarfraz Shah in Karachi were convicted and awarded punitive sentences. Once again the question was asked: why do the rangers get convicted while others like Malik Ishaq walk free? Well, it seems that the Punjab public prosecution department, counter-terrorism department and Punjab police have been asking this very question, and The Express Tribune has now obtained a copy of a report prepared by them to analyse just why terrorism cases tend to fail in court.
    The report, which was prepared following mounting public criticism over court acquittals of terrorists contains some disturbing facts: it states that, between 1990 and 2009, out of 311 cases, 231 resulted in acquittals. That amounts to 74% of all cases during the 19 year period.
    “While acquittals deny justice to the victims of terrorism, they also increase police problems, because the acquitted terrorists mostly recidivate to terrorism or join other organised crime gangs,” the report reads. An example of this is Ishaq’s vendetta attack on Ghalvi’s family.
    The report analyses the judgments of 178 cases in which the accused were deemed not guilty to conclude that most cases end in acquittals due to defects in the registration of cases i.e. the lodging of the FIR at the relevant police station. Five of these cases were termed ‘doubtful’ by the court, simply because an FIR was registered with an unexplained delay. However, the leading reason for acquittals, the report says, is that the accused are often not even nominated in an FIR, an objection raised by anti-terrorism courts in 36% of the judgments. Even when suspects are named in the FIR, it is without a description of the accused or of the role that that person is believed to have played in an attack, rendering the report almost useless before the court.
    “To ensure convictions in terrorism cases, there is a need for better infrastructure and skills enhancement, and also of combining prosecution with police. Prosecutors should be involved in the case right from the beginning, starting with the registration of the case,” says Chaudhry Muhammad Jehangir, chief prosecutor of the Punjab prosecution department. “A crime scene investigation unit should be established that consists of prosecutors, medical and forensic experts as well as the police,” he says.
    Jehangir corroborates the findings of the report and says that in most high-profile cases that have ended in acquittals, faults in investigation have weakened the case. “Because the police did not consult prosecution officers [in these cases], evidence could not be collected properly from crime scenes, which were in turn not preserved properly, and witness statements were also not recorded correctly,” he says.
    Further undermining the cases is the fact that in many instances, the actual attacker is a suicide bomber who dies in the assault thus complicating the process of finding out the attack’s financiers, planners, abetters and others who may have extended logistical help. “Such connections can only be proved in a courtroom when basic formalities regarding the preservation of crime scenes and collection of evidence have been fulfilled. Conviction is based only on investigation as well as admissible evidence but when the foundation of the case is this weak, prosecutors can do only so much before the court,” says Jehangir.
    By the time prosecutors are brought on board, it is too late to take corrective measures that would make the evidence strong enough to prove guilt in court. “When the police is ready to submit the charge-sheet before an anti-terrorism court, there is no time to correct the errors in the recovery memo and other proof such as reports of DNA tests and finger and footprints etc,” Jehangir explains.
    The capacity and competence of government officials to handle high profile cases is also questionable. A case in point is the Benazir Bhutto assassination case, where the Supreme Court issued orders to suspend senior police officials for hosing down the crime scene and possibly hampering investigations. And a logistical nightmare makes the process even more inefficient if a terrorist manages to cross one province’s boundary into another.
    “Police and other law enforcement agencies are controlled by provinces but terrorist networks are spread across the country. So if a terrorist crosses over to another province, police and LEA personnel are unable to chase him as they require formal approval from the home department of the respective province,” says Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry of the Federal Investigation Agency who was the main prosecutor in the Benazir assassination case as well as the Mumbai attack case.
    “Terrorism is a national issue and provincial governments are unable to deal with it. The entire cadre — investigators, prosecutors and judges — should be a federal subject,” says Chaudhry.
    Perhaps due to his own frustrating experience with a long-drawn-out case like the Benazir Bhutto assassination case, Chaudhry lays special emphasis on training police investigators in dealing with terrorism. “Terrorism investigation is totally different from other cases so traditional police is unable to deal with it. A qualified and dedicated force needs to be established that will work only on cases of terrorism,” he says. “Because most evidence is circumstantial, the role of forensic evidence as well as intelligence is most important to ensure convictions in terrorism cases.”
    But Chaudhry does not lay the blame squarely on investigators and believes that existing laws need to be strengthened as well. “Amendments need to be made to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 as well as the Evidence Act of 1984. A witness protection programme should also be instituted and properly enforced,” he says.
    The need for a strong witness protection programme is felt in police quarters too. “In various cases, witnesses have resiled due to fear or were forced to agree on a compromise with the accused,” says a senior police officer on condition of anonymity owing to his current direct involvement in a number of terrorism cases.
    The report corroborates this claim: 27% of the cases ended in acquittals because witnesses changed their statements or struck an agreement with the accused. The number is almost as high as that of witnesses refusing to show up for hearings.
    The report also recommends that instead of section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code, under which witnesses are required to record statements before a police official, testimonies should be recorded under section 164 which requires witnesses to record a statement before a magistrate before a trial begins. This would make it difficult for witnesses to resile or change statements as the testimony will become a part of the legal record and the witness will be charged with perjury.
    Nonetheless, says the officer, the police force is now seriously focusing on strengthening its investigation procedures, weaknesses in which he admits lead to acquittals, and on collaborating with the prosecution in high-profile terrorism cases.
    But putting together a report is one thing and implementing its findings quite another. The filing cabinets of Pakistan’s bureaucracy are filled with similar well-meaning reports that have never seen the light of day and have little chance of ever being acted upon. Still, if the state is serious in fighting the terrorists that have killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis then immediate action is needed to finally close the loopholes that allow murderers to walk free.
    Other cases, other acquittals
    In most terrorism cases, suspects have been acquitted or released on bail by the Anti-Terrorism Courts and superior courts.
    In the Sri Lankan cricket team attack case, apart from Malik Ishaq, Qari Ashfaq, Zaubai alais Naik Muhammad, Amanullah, Mohsin Rasheed, Abdul Rehman, Javed Anwar, Ubaidur Rehman and Wahab were released on bail by the Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court.
    Hijratullah, accused in the June 10, 2010 attack on the police training school in Manawan, Lahore, has been acquitted by the Anti-Terrorism Court.
    On May 13, 2010, Muhammad Ilyas alias Qari Jameel, Osama Bin Waheed alias Hadayatullah and Muhammad Jameel were acquitted by the Anti Terrorism Court Rawalpindi in the case of the killing of Army Surgeon General Mushtaq Baig who died in a suicide attack on Rawalpindi Mall Road in Cantt on February 25, 2008.
    Malik Ishaq, Ghulam Rasool Shah, Usman alias Chota and others including Riaz Basra who were killed in an encounter in 2002 were previously acquitted by the Anti-Terrorism Court Gujranwala on May 20, 2010. Ironically, the same trial court had earlier awarded capital punishment to these persons for the murder of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Gujranwala Ashraf Marth. The LHC upheld the sentence but when the SC remanded the case back to the ATC Gujranwala, the trial court acquitted the accused in the 11-year-old case due to missing evidence and resiling of witnesses.
    Accused Muhammad Rizwan alias Shamsul Hassan, Muhammad Jameel, Osama Bin Waheed alias Hadayatullah, Ilyas alias Qari Jameel were also acquitted by the Anti Terrorism Court Rawalpindi in a case of a bomb blast near the Headquarters of the National Logistics Cell (NLC) in Rawalpindi in 2008 owing to inadequate evidence.
    Alleged al Qaeda member and former Pakistan Army Major Haroon and two other co-accused who were imprisoned on charges of murdering Major General (retd) Ameer Faisal Alvi and his driver in 2008 were also acquitted in both cases.
    Dr Niaz Ahmed, Mazharul Haq, Shafiqur Rehman, Mohammad Aamir, Syed Abdul Majid, Abdul Basit, Syed Abdul Saboor, Shafique Ahmed, Saeed Arab, Gul Roz and Tahseenullah, who had been arrested in 2008 in the cases of suicide attacks on ISI buses, firing anti-aircraft rounds at the plane of former president General (retired) Pervez Musharraf and firing rockets on the Kamra Aeronautical Complex were all acquitted.
    Nine men have already been acquitted by an ATC in the case of the killing of Army Surgeon General Mushtaq Baig in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi on February 25, 2008 for want of evidence.
    In 2009, an ATC acquitted the accused in the 2004 suicide attack on former prime minister Shaukat Aziz in Fateh Jang. The ATC-II judge Sakhi Muhammad Kahut in his judgment said that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. The government of the Punjab filed appeals in the LHC in June 2010 and the then LHC chief justice Khawaja Sharif issued orders to constitute a special bench to dealing with such high-profile appeals. Despite the lapse of more than two years, this special bench has not been constituted.
    Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, August 5th, 2012.