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Judicial relief for LeJ terrorists: A case for rethinking justice – by Ayesha Siddiqa

The Lahore High Court recently ordered the provincial home ministry to take off the names of 25 Sipah-i-Sahaba activists from the police watch-list on the grounds that there was no material evidence against them. Thus, these people were taken off the Fourth Schedule which means that they no longer have to report their movement to the police. This basically means that another 25 men have gone back into action. Notwithstanding the general perception regarding the peculiar right-wing leanings of the Lahore High Court, the judgment itself is not erroneous since it was based on the lack of presentable evidence before the court to prove that the men were worth monitoring.

Given the conditions of policing in this country we may never be able to plug the gaps as far as terrorism is concerned. Just imagine the burden on the police in every part of the country. Our rising population, coupled with an increase in poverty and crime, all makes policing a very tough job. The additional burden of providing security to VIPs, and keeping a watch over those in the Fourth Schedule is far too much to ask of a police official. Under the circumstances, the only available option is to listen to the heads of the banned outfits when they promise that if allowed to operate on their own they will ensure that there are no cases of violence in their area. Furthermore, to ensure the good-heartedness of the state, those dealing with these outfits can then help in the expansion of the jihadi infrastructure, again with the expectation that nothing untoward will happen. The formula works until there is some difference of opinion and the jihadis need to feed their followers with real action. Perhaps, this is when the religious and sectarian minorities come of good use to the state as these could be conveniently sacrificed for buying some time from the jihadi friends.

The bottom line is that such collusion results in forcing the law enforcers not to collect appropriate evidence against people who in the past have been involved in nefarious activities, who have trained in Afghanistan and Kashmir, and who continue to be part of these militant outfits. Recently, a senior police office responsible for watching over the LeJ’s Malik Ishaq said that keeping an eye on the jihadi leader wasn’t a problem since he was doing it with the help of couple of intelligence informants which is all that he needed for the job. Clearly, his bosses had not informed him of Malik Ishaq’scapacity to run operations from his jail cell. In any case, the officer was of the view that Ishaq had become pro-Pakistan and was needed to rope in the unfriendly portions of the LeJ. Sadly, this is one of the oldest stories told to justify the continuation of one jihadi gang or the other. Not to mention the fact that it would perhaps take centuries to disabuse the LeJ’s head honcho of his sectarian bias.

But let’s suppose the intelligence officials did come up with some credible and incriminating evidence. The problem then would be getting the information to be accepted in a court of law. This is a huge issue that is faced by the legal system in general in that it does not, by and large, allow for admissibility of intelligence information. Likewise, intelligence officials are wary of presenting such information for fear of compromising their sources. So, here is a situation where even if the court were less lenient towards the jihadis it would still not be possible to pass a judgment using the argument that was used, for instance, in the Afzal Guru case in India where the superior court maintained the death sentence on the basis of its concern for public sentiment. This certainly cannot be done every day and is also a principle with a larger legal connotation that every judge may not want to consider, especially if the judiciary has certain ideological leanings. There is also the issue of judges being far too conservative to think ‘outside the box’ in entertaining evidence.

What is needed instead is a system by which the court is able to look through the intelligence information in the judges’ chamber in order to protect the intelligence source.

For those thinking of beefing-up counter-terrorism, bringing the higher judiciary on board to make the necessary changes in the system of adjudication is extremely important.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2011.

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Relevant comments:

M Baloch
You must be kidding madam, do you really think it is problem of lacking evidences or judiciary hasn’t “spine” to name them? I hope you remember the days when police officers investigating Riaz Basra were going with masks in Jail or Shari brothers stopped sending their children to school due to LeJ fears, history taught them and they have learned great lessons and things has much progressed now, Sharifs say they are on same page with Taliban and the judiciary (not police) is overloaded for taking suo-motos of liquor, and of course it is not 1990s and now “most near to Jihadis” is the fittest model of survival so please don’t blame police, they are innocents…!

Mir
if Malik Ishaq gets stipend from government of Punjab then who gonna get him, and if deep state is protecting jihadis compromising lives of minorities then who cares? neither judiciary nor police would stand against banned outfits.

Sajjad Ashraf
My friends participating in this debate, in my view, have missed the point again. Why blame the low placed officials. Good friends, the rot begins at the head. The fish start decaying from the head, the snow melts from the top… there is a message in these universal truths. Get 5 top people in this county, punish them on their accumulated wealth and corruption and you will reform this society. There are no secrets to clean government. (source: ET)

About the author

SK

3 Comments

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  • iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    engaging is no big deal after all track II is thriving industry

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @amitabhmattoo @pragmatic_d @dhume01 the source is one so you may have diff tones of one color but not diff colors

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @amitabhmattoo @pragmatic_d @dhume01 hey our side the team reps just one perspective don’t fool yourself

    amitabhmattoo Amitabh Mattoo
    @iamthedrifter @Watandost Ayesha,surely people like Sherry are hardly part or sympathetic to the deep state. But I hope u 2 will be a part.

    amitabhmattoo Amitabh Mattoo
    @pragmatic_d @iamthedrifter I am not sure what balloon u r talking about?Do u disapprove of seriousIndians & Pakistanis talking 2 one other?

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @amitabhmattoo @pragmatic_d @dhume01 will be grateful if these folks can even spell extremism & terrorism
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @pragmatic_d the bottom line is state talking to state through replicas which makes it track 1/2
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @pragmatic_d the rest are carbon copies
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @pragmatic_d it also has Ejaz Haider, Musharraf Zaidi, Cyril Almeida, Sarah Khokhar and Shehrbano taseer
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @dhume01 u will get lot of them and Madame is suggesting some abuse I think not incl all voices is the real abuse
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @pragmatic_d sherry fails to bring marginalized view mainstream so he gang is mostly the power corridor friends type
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @pragmatic_d lots of tough guys and very sweet girls!
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @amitabhmattoo @dhume01 @smitaprakash @pragmatic_d have fun on Monday when you hear some of the ppl and then see if jaw-jaw is even possible
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @amitabhmattoo @pragmatic_d this is very American style I.e. talk to the establishment or those that represent it
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @amitabhmattoo @pragmatic_d I don’t have a problem bei part of the process except that this one is for sherry and her boys and gals
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @amitabhmattoo @pragmatic_d just run down the list from our side and most names are deep state’s bosom bodies incl sherry Bibi
    6 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @dhume01 also no pressure on higher judiciary 2 change it’s methods this is as gentle as possible btw, read comment 2
    7 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @dhume01 heaps of sympathy in LHC one judge related with Omar Saeed Sheikh but wanted to flag how SSP ppl being released
    7 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @amitabhmattoo @Watandost with all those very sympathetic to deep state’s view it will certainly be very serious
    7 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @dhume01 just wish friends can read the fine print
    7 hours ago

    iamthedrifter Ayesha Siddiqa
    @suhasinih don’t tell me you will be reading this enroute to Bangkok? Ed’s asstt Majid nawaz very accommodative 2 GHQ

  • Flawed anti-terrorism strategy: 75% terror suspects set free in Punjab
    By Asad Kharal
    Published: October 17, 2011

    Both government officials as well as legislators have spoken of the need to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act. DESIGN: NABEEL ABDUSAMAD
    LAHORE:
    If you were accused of being a terrorist in Punjab over the past two decades, there was about a 75 per cent chance that you would be acquitted. Three out of every four terrorism suspects arrested in the province over the last two decades were set free by the courts, according to data compiled by the provincial government.
    Since 1990, there have been 800 incidents of terrorism in Punjab, of which 475 have actually been prosecuted. A total of 2,300 suspects were named in those cases, and about 2,200 arrested. Of those arrested, about 1,650 — or 75% — were acquitted by the courts due to a lack of evidence against them.
    (Read: Accountabiliity – Amid increasing terrorism, anti-terrorism courts empty)
    Public prosecutors, however, claim that the conviction rate was even lower than those numbers suggest. Chaudhry Muhammad Jahangir, Punjab’s chief public prosecutor, said that “terrorism” cases often included simpler crimes like abduction for ransom, etc, that were classified as terrorism because they were mentioned in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. Jahangir said that conviction rates on actual cases of terrorism were even lower.
    Jahangir identified three major problems with the prosecution of terrorism cases that led to so many acquittals: lack of witness protection, defective investigations, and lack of forensic and other technology that would aid the investigation process.
    Ali Amir Malik, the deputy inspector general of police for investigations, agrees, though he identifies the withdrawal of testimonies by witnesses – who are often threatened and intimidated by terrorist groups – as the primary cause for the low conviction rate.
    (Read: Year 2010 for Punjab – Police manages to track only 20% of terrorism cases)
    The Punjab public prose­cution department has tried to improve its record by assigning a prosecutor with every case being investigated by the police or the counter-terrorism department. Yet the problem appears to be endemic.
    For one thing, the government is not able to enforce even the provisions of the anti-terrorism laws that would aid it in the prevention of terrorism. The fourth schedule of the Anti Terrorism Act, for instance, allows the government to place almost draconian controls on the movement of terrorism suspects. Yet Malik Ishaq, a man convicted of killing over 70 people and placed on the fourth schedule of the act, was not only able to violate his curfew, but also to do so brazenly by openly touring in a large caravan across southern Punjab.
    (Read: Terrorism tactics)
    Both government officials as well as legislators have spoken of the need to amend the act. There now seems to be almost universal consensus on the need for witness protection, for instance, which is currently not accommodated at all in the law.
    Several innovative proposals have been suggested to help that matter. Muhammad Azhar Chaudhry, a prosecution lawyer who has worked on such high-profile cases as the Benazir Bhutto assassination, told The Express Tribune that one method that might be used would be to amend the Evidence Act of 1984 to allow witnesses to record statements in front of a wider array of government officials, allowing prosecutors to have written statements before terrorist groups have had the opportunity to bully the witness.
    Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2011.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/275661/flawed-anti-terrorism-strategy-75-terror-suspects-set-free-in-punjab/

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