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Haunting acquittals – by Babar Sattar

The Lal Masjid brigade brought life to a standstill in Islamabad. Its vigilante missions caused harm and nuisance. But that paled into insignificance when over a hundred lives were lost in the security operation executed to regain control of the mosque and clear it of weapons and militants. Fourteen security officials lost their lives during the operation. They did not have the authority to decide whether or not an operation was to be carried out. They died in the line of duty. Likewise the young students holed up in the mosque were themselves victims of bigotry and the loss of their lives in the crossfire was a tragedy. But now that Maulvi Abdul Aziz is back in the mosque preaching intolerance once again, will anyone be held responsible for the crimes committed and the precious lives lost?

The Marriott bombing not only claimed many innocent lives, but also transformed Islamabad the beautiful into a barricaded city at war. An antiterrorist court recently released all those accused of facilitating the heinous crime for want of evidence. Similarly the accused held for planning, aiding and abetting the suicide attack that claimed Surgeon General Mushtaq Baig and several others a stone’s throw away from the GHQ have also been let go. Equally significant is the release of the prime accused in the Mumbai-style siege of the Manawan Police Training School in Lahore.

Does the existence of a criminal justice system remain meaningful if criminals cannot be tried and convicted in accordance with due process of law? Why are we consistently failing to bring to justice those who are responsible for violence and terror? Are the courts being too timid or lenient? Are investigation agencies conniving with the terrorists? Are they simply incompetent? Or does a fundamental contradiction in the distribution of power and authority between civil and military agencies lie at the heart of our failure to combat internal security threats and secure convictions?

Some judges might get intimidated when they receive missives from terror groups. But are they to blame for wishing to live out their natural lives? Is it not the responsibility of the state to guarantee the physical safety of its judicial officers and enable them to carry out their official responsibilities without considerations of fear? But intimidation aside, we must remember that in the realm of criminal law the prosecution has to establish a case against the accused beyond any reasonable doubt. And to the extent that there is lingering doubt, its benefit must go to the accused. Innocent, until proven guilty, after all is a corner stone of rule of law.

In our desperation to clasp convictions we must not succumb to the temptation of diluting our standards of justice and removing safety valves. For justice doesn’t demand conviction of the accused, but that of the guilty. It is true that the police and civilian investigation agencies are incompetent, ineffectual and suffer from a crisis of credibility. But what kind of financial and human resource investment is the state making to buttress civilian law enforcement agencies at a time when the country is confronted with its gravest internal security challenge?

Even more fundamentally which state agency is responsible for internal security? Is it the civilian police and investigation departments or the army and its affiliate agencies? It has been argued over the last decade or more that the foremost national security challenge confronting Pakistan is internal and not external. So then if the army is the de-facto guardian of our national security and the paramount threat is emanating from within and not outside our frontiers, can the army automatically assume responsibility for managing internal security?

This is not a theoretical question about our lop-sided civil-military balance. The military’s help with internal security duties might even be temporarily desirable in view of our current exigencies. But there is no legal authority backing the role being performed by agents of the military and the power being exercised by them. And this singular fact largely cripples the ability of our criminal justice system to deal with terrorism. When civilian security agencies exercise police powers of the state, they are authorized and aided in that regard by an entire framework of substantive and procedural laws such as the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.

Any arrests made or evidence gathered by the police in accordance with these laws can be used in a court of law to seek a conviction. But when it is military agencies carrying out internal security duties, arresting people, interrogating them and gathering evidence, they fail to satisfy due process requirements of the law, as our legal framework doesn’t envisage the armed forces performing such role. When the accused is actually arrested by military agencies, and recovery of weapons and other evidence takes place during interrogations, such facts cannot be presented before a court of law.

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.

How will anyone ever be punished for the murder of the fourteen security personnel killed during the Lal Masjid operation when the military didn’t bother to conduct postmortems and document the cause of death for legal purposes? How can any of the weapons recovered from the mosque be linked directly to any accused in a court of law when the crime scene and the evidence was not preserved as it should be? How will the militants arrested in Swat be prosecuted for their crimes without any documented record of their lawful arrests, recovery of weapons and other evidence that could link them to violent crimes?

We are pursuing a mindless strategy against a torrent of terrorism and violent crime. The solution to an underequipped, underperforming and corrupt police force is not to use military agencies as a stop-gap arrangement when the army personnel are neither trained to shoulder internal policing responsibilities nor authorized by our legal framework to execute such mandate. It is shocking that no meaningful steps have been taken by the government so far to revamp our shambolic civilian security agencies with proper authority, equipment, training and human resources.

If enhancing national security and enforcing law and order are priorities of the government, all responsible civil and military agencies presently involved in internal security duties must sit together and devise an operational strategy that allows them to collaborate their efforts while functioning within the confines of our legal framework. It is the absence of a comprehensive internal security strategy and lack of concern for due process of the law that is tearing apart our criminal justice system and letting terrorists off the hook. Any delay in fixing all constituent parts of our criminal justice system is at our own peril.


The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

Source: The News, July 03, 2010

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  • Pakistan: Trouble in the mosque By Syed Saleem Shahzad South Asia Apr 12, 2007

    KARACHI – Pakistan’s military and political movers and shakers have traditionally frequented the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad’s city center. Now, a standoff over the mosque, which has become a potent symbol of the power of Pakistan’s radical Islamists, threatens the very core of the country’s ruling establishment. The mosque and its affiliated madrassa (seminary) Jamia Hafsa are pitted against the government. The crisis began when the mosque and the madrassa
    challenged the writ of the government by calling for the declaration of Islamic (sharia) law in the country, leading to the occupation of a nearby library and kidnappings.

    Last Friday, the chief cleric of Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdul Aziz, announced the setting up of a
    Taliban-style vigilante Islamic court and vowed suicide-bomb attacks if the authorities tried to crack down on the mosque and its followers.

    Also on Friday, Aziz’s brother, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, gave the government a month either to follow sharia law or see it enforced through the mosque’s parallel system.

    Already, girls from the Jamia Hafsa, backed by their male counterparts from Jamia Fareedia, another religious institution administered by the Lal Masjid, have been roving through Islamabad, asking music- and video-shop owners to close down their businesses. “Vice and virtue” squads urge women to adopt the Islamic dress code.

    The mosque compound has taken on the form of a rebel camp, with young men armed with sticks posted at the gates and at lookout points along banner-strewn walls. More than 10,000 students are affiliated with the mosque’s two madrassas.

    President General Pervez Musharraf has so far resisted the temptation to use force, and was due on Wednesday to receive advice from his cabinet on ways to defuse the situation. The only action taken so far is by the privately run Federal Madaris Board, which has canceled the registration of the seminaries.

    Waiting and watching developments are remnants of the military elite of the 1990s who planned an Islamic coup before Musharraf seized power in 1999, the Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan (JI) Islamist political party, underground militant organizations and a segment of the establishment – all of them dedicated to bringing Musharraf down.

    They see the crisis as an opportunity to take khurooj (mass mobilization to change the regime) to the next level, and even to revive the idea of Pakistan becoming a caliphate.

    The brothers of Lal Masjid

    Maulana Abdullah was assassinated in the Lal Masjid in the late 1990s, and since then the complex has been run by his sons, Aziz and Ghazi, both in their 40s. The brothers were active in the mujahideen struggle against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The brothers come from Balochistan province’s Mari tribe, which is the most active component of the ongoing Baloch insurgency. Maulana Abdullah was known for his critical speeches in Friday prayers, even against the late president Zia ul-Haq, who provided Maulana Abdullah with the land in the most expensive sector of Islamabad to construct Jamia Fareedia. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was widely blamed for Maulana Abdullah’s killing. Maulana Abdullah was a highly respected figure, known for his piety, knowledge and struggle for an Islamic way of life. Many top generals and bureaucrats attended his Friday prayers. These included disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who frequently contributed to the needs of seminary by donating books, food and construction material.

    Maulana Abdullah’s legacy was transferred to his sons, who also supported the cause of jihad and earned respect from such people

    Page 2 of 2 Pakistan:

    Trouble in the mosque By Syed Saleem Shahzad

    as Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the chief of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tahir Yaldeshiv.

    This correspondent has seen a letter of appreciation written by Yaldeshiv, shown by Rasheed, when the Lal Masjid issued a religious edict in 2004 that any Pakistani soldier killed in the South Waziristan tribal area did not deserve Muslim funeral prayers or burial in a Muslim graveyard. The letter was later endorsed by more than 500 scholars and became one of the main reasons for defiance in the Pakistan Army during military operations in South Waziristan.

    Lal Masjid was also the main site for Pakistani militants to visit, which landed the brothers in
    serious trouble in 2004 when the government accused them of being partners in a conspiracy to carry out major terror operations in Islamabad. The connection was Rasheed’s car, which was apparently used by one Usman, who had been arrested in connection with sabotage activities in the capital.

    The government wanted the brothers arrested, but then-federal minister for religious affairs and son of former president Zia Ejaz ul-Haq, who was very close to the brothers, intervened. He became guarantor on behalf of the state that if Rasheed surrendered for interrogations to an intelligence agency of the armed forces and if no evidence came out, he would be cleared of all charges.

    “Before going into custody I made it clear to Ejaz ul-Haq that I had met everybody, including Osama, [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar [and] Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri and that many wanted figures did come to Lal Masjid because it is a mosque and anybody can come to this place. So any evidence of terror should be other than that. Ejaz ul-Haq agreed, and then I was handed over to intelligence, ” Rasheed told Asia Times Online in a recent interview.

    Rasheed spent several weeks in custody before being released in the clear.

    These developments convinced Musharraf that the two seminaries run by the brothers should be moved out of Islamabad. At the same time, Rasheed, who had previously been at loggerheads with the military establishment, established a rapport with it.

    Leader of a khurooj?

    The brothers are respected for their services for jihad in Afghanistan and their connection with the
    esteemed former justice of the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court, Taqi Usmani. Taqi Usmani is a big name in Islamic economics and helped establish and run a leading Islamic bank in Pakistan.

    Taqi Usmani is Aziz’s religious and spiritual guide, and after the latest campaign by students to enforce Islam in Islamabad, Taqi Usmani visited Aziz to hear his side of the argument. The two disagreed, and Taqi Usmani severed his relationship with Aziz. This could only have been a painful experience, for Aziz to be rejected by his mentor – as well as by the board, which canceled the mosque’s registration.

    Others, though, see an important role for the brothers in creating the right circumstances for an Islamic revolution.

    “They are capable of swaying all Islamic elements under a single banner and they are qualified for leadership because they are pious and assertive,” former ISI official and retired squadron leader Khalid Khawaja, who is now in jail, once told this correspondent.

    However, it could be that the brothers will only be useful in the initial stages, as they are likely to be silenced one way or the other by the military or go underground in the Waziristan tribal areas.

    To date, the only religious force that is publicly standing behind the brothers is the JI, the forerunner of the idea of khurooj in the last century. It was also the only political party that was hand-in-glove with the plan of the military elite in the 1990s to stage an Islamic coup in the country.

    It is possible that retired officers from this era, the JI, headed by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, and the Lal Masjid are talking to a section of the establishment over the downfall of Musharraf.

    Organizations such as al-Qaeda and militant groups, meanwhile, are waiting to exploit any chaos to declare a caliphate.

  • Massage centre abductees were from MMA By Shakeel Anjum

    ISLAMABAD: Two of the nine persons kidnapped from a Chinese massage centre in F-8/3 late on the night of June 22 by the local Taliban and who were mysteriously released by the police belonged to the MMA, authoritative sources have told The News.

    Seven of those kidnapped were Chinese and their identity was made public while the identity of the two Pakistanis was not disclosed. The sources said that the two Pakistanis were Matiullah Khan and Raqiaz Khan from Bannu. Matiullah Khan, a nephew of the former member of National Assembly, the late Maulana Naseeb Ali Shah, was contesting elections from the seat of his uncle. Raqiaz Khan was his supporter, they added.

    The sources said that Matiullah Khan, while recording his statement with the police, said that he was suffering from knee pain and had gone to the massage centre for a massage where he was held.

    Male and female students (respectively Taliban and Talibat) of Jamia Faridia, Jamia Hafsa and Beaconhouse School System, in a joint operation, kidnapped Chinese women and Pakistani men shortly after midnight Friday from a Chinese massage center at house 14, Street 4, F-8/3, alleging that they were running a brothel. However, the hostages said they were running a massage centre and beauty parlour.

    The Lal Masjid administration later released nine persons after detaining them for 17 hours. The police, the district administration and Lal Masjid identified the Chinese but kept secret the identity of two Pakistanis.

    The police, later, freed both the ‘political bigwigs’ keeping their names secret on the direction of the district administration. The sources claimed that the Lal Masjid administration, after knowing about the identity of the kidnapped ‘Pakistanis’ who enjoyed strong political background, facilitated their release. They made it part of the agreement arrived at with the police and the district administration that their identity would be kept a secret.

    Meanwhile, President of MMA Qazi Hussain Ahmad, when contacted by this correspondent, said that he didn’t know Matiullah Khan. “It would be better to investigate their involvement and publish whatever is the truth,” he advised.

  • REALITY OF RED MOSQUE MULLAHS. [The link of the news below is dead]

    How Ghazi brothers got hold of seminaries By Umar Cheema

    Sunday, July 08, 2007, Jamadi-us-sani 22, 1428 A.H

    ISLAMABAD: There is a general misconception that the Lal Masjid clerics who are making the headlines nowadays owe their ‘glory’ to the blessings of intelligence agencies. The facts tell a different story.

    It would be interesting to know how Maulana Abdullah, the late father of the Ghazi Brothers ‘maneuvered’ to get the Khitabat of Lal Masjid and Jamia Faridia. Equally interesting would be to know why masjid and madrasah were respectively named as Lal Masjid and Jamia Faridia. It was the late Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the country’s first military ruler, who got appointed late Maulana Abdullah as the prayer leader of Lal Masjid, on the advice of his spiritual guide, Pir Sahib of Deval Sharif.

    Jaafar Brothers, one of the leading industrialist groups of the country who had constructed Jamia Faridia, in order to show reverence to the great Sufi Saint Khawaja Ghulam Farid named the seminary after him. It was handed over to the Maulanas by the then secretary CBR, Syed Hassan Akhtar. The land for Jamia Faridia was allotted during the late Gen Zia’s regime.

    This was due to the blessing of Pirs that Lal Masjid Maulanas could manage to take over these religious seats. A graduate of Jamia Binnoria, Karachi, late Maulana Abdullah landed in Rawalpindi soon after President Ayub Khan took the decision to shift the capital to Islamabad. He took oath of allegiance to the then Pir of Deval Sharif, Muhammad Abdul Majid. This was a significant move on part of a Deobandi Maulana.

    The information has been verified by the son of Pir Deval Sharif, Rooh-ul-Husnain Moeen and coordinator of Auqaf Department, Syed Muhammad Ali Wasti who says that many people told his father about the religious school of thought of late Maulana Abdullah, but Pir Sahib gave no importance to the point and considered and treated him like a changed man.

    Maulana Abdullah served as the prayer leader in the mosque of Pir Sahib and later requested him to exercise his spiritual influence over his disciple, Gen Ayub.

    Pir Sahib Deval Sharif helped Maulana Abdullah in his appointment as Khateeb of Lal Masjid. The Auqaf Department later took over Lal Masjid, but Maulana’s religious dynasty kept on flourishing unhindered. It was during Zia regime that Jamia Faridia was established. As the story goes, a partner of ‘Jaafar Brothers’ dreamed that he was at the tomb of Khawaja Ghulam Farid and that a river full of water was flowing around. He shared the dream with Syed Akhtar
    Hassan, the-then secretary CBR, and sought his interpretation of the dream.

    Akhtar termed the dream as a good omen and advised him to build a seminary and name it after Khawaja Ghulam Farid. Jaafar did accordingly. Akhtar helped him acquire the land from the government of late Gen Zia. Admiral (retd) Muhammad Sharif, whose son-in-law (Sha’aban Shoukat) these days is running a massage center (spa) in Super Market, had then allotted this
    land. Interestingly, Lal Masjid brigade had raided an alleged prostitution den and then a massage center. However, the massage centre of Sha’aban Shoukat was not touched. Sha’aban was a CBR officer and left the CBR job to start this apparently lucrative business. The CBR secretary handed over the management of the Jamia to Maulana Abdullah and since-then the seminary
    has been under the command of the family.

    Why Lal Masjid was so called? Some say that it was named after Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a highly revered saint of Sindh buried in Sehwan Sharif. This may well have been a ploy of the military government of Ayub Khan to please the people of Sindh who were not at all happy with the shifting of the capital from Karachi to Islamabad. It was most probably due to this reason that its walls were painted with red colour.

  • Isnt babar sattar the same person who leaves no stone unturned to support the judiciary and criticising the present government? Why this change of heart now?

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