The Merriam Webster dictionary defines terrorism as use of violent acts in an area to frighten the people to achieve a political goal.
Our world faced a new wave of terrorism after the sad incident of 9/11.Pakistan became a frontline state of war against terror and as a consequence it sunk further into this dark abyss which we call “terrorism”. Instead of fighting against terror, we became victims of terror. Why we became victims is in itself a great debate, there are many factors and hidden realities which need to be revealed before we answer this question.
Here I`d like to bring into discussion just one factor of our failure to curb terrorism-The role of Judiciary-
A report issued by the US State Department in 2010 said that Pakistan was incapable of prosecuting terror suspects, since three in four defendants are acquitted.
It said that while Pakistan maintained it was committed to prosecuting those accused of terrorism, its Anti-Terrorism Court’s (ATC) rulings last year tell a different story showing that Pakistan’s acquittal rate of prosecuting suspected terrorists was approximately 75%.
The report further said that Islamabad had not closed loopholes which allowed terrorist groups and criminals to launder money (hawala), also mentioning former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s unresolved case as an example of how the investigative methods had to improve to collect better evidence, since the post assassination footage clearly showed that the crime scene in Rawalpindi was hosed down before evidence collection.
The report complains that Pakistan’s ‘weak implementation’ of a UN Security Council resolution which lists banned terrorist organisations remained a concern.
According to an estimate a total of 1200 terrorists were released by our Courts on the grounds of lack of evidence.
Barrister Zafarullah Khan explains that Courts release terrorists because of lack of evidence. Whose responsibility is it to collect the evidence? The Police and investigation agencies. But the problem which investigation agencies face is that they have no protection from terrorists. The moment they start their investigation, they start getting threats from terrorist organizations to drop their investigation. If they persist, they are killed, just like Naimat Ullah Randhawa was disposed of for taking on the Wali Khan Babar case and many other voices which have been silenced. Most of the time, they succumb to the pressure and drop off the case and produce the terrorist into the ATC without any evidence.
The total hours allocated to “Law of Evidence” are 40 hours in Police Academy. Our investigation officers are not even taught properly how to collect evidence.
The blame simply doesn`t rest on our investigation agencies alone. The top Police Officials complain that they are not allowed to carry out their investigation. When they ask for telephone records,their requests are obstructed by higher authorities.
Apart from operational difficulties, there are also shortcomings at the executive level.
The Anders Breivik Trial:
All over the world, countries which faced the threat of terrorism, made special laws to deal with terrorism. Apart from laws, they have the will and conviction to root out terrorism completely from their society. In 2011, when Anders Breivik carried out a shooting spree on Utoya Island in Oslo, he was caught and put on trial and convicted by the courts.
There were extensive cross examination sessions, where witnesses, hundreds of them, identified him, forensic evidence was used, his internet, telephonic and other communication records were pulled up. All of these evidences were used by the Courts not only to punish him, but also to assess the reason for the extremist ideology which he represented.
Anders Breivik trial is a case-study for our Judicial system, or in fact any judiciary which wants to curb terrorism.
Shahzeb Murder Case:
Recently the Shahzeb Murder Case made us realise how powerful the elite really are.They rule us,they kill us and then they get away without any fear. This happened in the Shahzeb Khan Murder Case. The main murderer Shahrukh Jatoi and his accomplices were arrested by the police after immense pressure created by the Media and a SuoMoto taken by the Chief Justice. The case continued,witnesses gave their statements,initially the murderer was made to look under age but DNA tests confirmed that he was an adult.
Finally,the courts made a benchmark decision by charging the accused with murder and sending him to the gallows.It looked like finally after so many dark days,justice had finally won in Pakistan. But no one knew what was happening behind the scenes.Despite having the permission to file an appeal against the Courts decision,the lawyers of the accused did not challenge the courts decision.Everyone thought that wealth cannot take you above the law.
However a few days later,the parents of Shahzeb Khan,forgave the murderer after a purported monetary settlement. The murderers were saved from death,no punishment was carried out and no example was set for potential murderers in the future.
This case is a perfect example of how the victims are pressurised by the powerful criminals to take back their cases or forgive them by misusing the Islamic law of Diyat[BloodMoney]
Our current system is so pathetic that even if a criminal accepts that he is guilty, the courts cannot punish him because they rely on evidence, which are non-existent. When courts accidentally convict someone [Shahzeb Murder Case] ,then the misuse of Islamic laws of Diyat[Blood Money],is often made to release the criminals. Who misuses the law? Sadly corrupt and ineligible elements within the Judiciary.
Salman Taseer Assassination:
Here I would like to point out a very controversial case in the history of Pakistan`s Judiciary. The assassination of Governor Punjab Late Salman Taseer,he was assassinated by his guard Mumtaz Qadri on the grounds of blasphemy. When the matter was investigated,it turned out that Salman Taseer had not explicitly or impliedly commited Blasphemy.his statements were condemnable but they did not qualify as Blasphemy.
Leading Islamic scholars like Dr Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri and Mufti Muneeb ur Rahman,critically examined Salman Taseer`s statements and declared that his statements did not amount to blasphemy.
Late Salman Taseer was not referring to the substantial law of Blasphemy, instead he was referring to the Criminal Procedural Court, the part of law that deals with investigation of blasphemy charges. Mumtaz Qadri should have been punished for murder, except that he never was punished by the courts. Why? Because of pressure from external elements. Even the judge who was overlooking the case,had to move to a Middle Eastern country with his family because of threats.
Going into the background of this case, one is forced to ask this question, why did Mumtaz Qadri decide to take law into his own hands? Why didn`t anyone register a case against Salman Taseer for blasphemy in the first place? The answer is very simple, because the common man thinks that the courts are useless.
In 80`s there was a dispute of land and a case was filed. The petitioner died later due to natural causes and his son carried forth the case. The son too died and the grandson of the petitioner is now pursuing the case, without any hope of justice.
At any given time there is a backlog of 15000 cases pending. Justice delayed is justice denied and when Justice is denied, the people take law into their own hands. Law and Order breaks down which results in increase in terrorism and the state starts to slide towards anarchy.
The trio of Judiciary, Law enforcement agencies and the Law Making Body[Parliament],has got to come together with a unified will to formulate a proper mechanism . The law enforcement agencies need to be properly equipped with the latest gadgets and methods of crime investigation. The assemblies should make necessary amendments to remove any loopholes which exist. Recently a witness protection act was passed by the Sind Assembly, but so far it has not been implemented. The courts need to be free from political involvement . Judgments against criminals need to be passed and punishment should be carried out.
In a Nutshell,it can be said that there is a dire need to overhawl the entire system . We have the laws,but there is no one to implement the laws.Sadly not even Judiciary seems willing to implement the laws. Unless high profile cases like the Rental Power Project,Ogra Scam,Ephiderine Case,Steel Mills and PIA Corruption cases are properly heard in the courts and unless the verdict passed over them is implemented with an iron fist,the trust on judiciary will remain a question mark for some.
by Danial Ahmed
Team Operation Pakistan