ISLAMABAD: At least 10 cases pending with the anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) of the twin cities are against ‘terrorists’ such as PTI chief Imran Khan, Dr Tahirul Qadri and a host of other politicians and members of parliament.

Court officials told Dawn that the total caseload of the ATCs in Rawalpindi and Islamabad is 130. But of these, only 20 cases – a mere 15 per cent – deal with actual incidents of terrorism.

Ninety cases are currently pending before the two Rawalpindi ATCs, of which 12 are related to incidents of terrorism, while two are registered against politicians. The rest of the cases, court officials say, are related to crimes such as kidnapping, aerial firing, manhandling of government officials and other matters.

The most high-profile cases pending with the ATC are those registered against the leaders of the two protesting parties that descended upon the capital in August of this year. At least eight FIRs have been registered in Islamabad against politicians from PTI, PAT and other parties where police inserted sections of the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997.

However, no sections of the ATA are included in the cases filed against the government at the request of PTI and PAT leaders over the Aug 30 violence on Constitution Avenue.

Only 15pc of all cases pending before ATCs deal with incidents of terrorism
Imran Khan and Dr Qadri were also declared proclaimed offenders by the Islamabad ATC in September, in the matter of the attack on Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Asmatullah Junejo.

Another major case pending before the ATC deals with the attack on Parliament House. Here too, the Islamabad ATC has issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, PTI leaders Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Jahangir Tareen, Asad Umar, Shaukat Yousafzai, Shafqat Mehmood, Arif Alvi and PAT leaders Raheeq Abbasi and Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali.

The Rawalpindi ATC has also declared Dr Qadri a proclaimed offender for an alleged attack on police officials near airport and for taking policemen hostage near the Lillah interchange on the M2 Motorway.

Terrorism cases

Cases dealing with actual incidents of terrorism include the Nato containers attack case, the murder of police officer Raja Saqlain and the Ashura clashes of 2013.

In the Islamabad ATC, only eight cases currently pending deal with incidents of terrorism, including the Mumbai attacks, the Bhara Kahu Imambargah attack and the attack on the district courts in Sector F-8.

However, one of the most prominent terrorism-related cases currently pending before the Rawalpindi ATC is the Benazir Bhutto assassination case. Here, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has implicated former president retired General Pervez Musharraf as one of the accused.

In 2008, police had arrested Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Aitezaz Shah and Abdul Rashid of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in connection with the murder of Ms Bhutto.

In 2010, however, the prosecution nominated Gen Musharraf and two police officials, Rawalpindi City Police Officer Saud Aziz and SP Khurram Shehzad as well.

Mr Aziz currently serves as the director general of the National Crisis Management Cell, which is considered the nerve center of the federal government. He faces charges for not providing adequate security to Ms Bhutto on December 27, 2007, the day when she was killed in a terrorist attack following a public meeting in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh. He is also accused of giving the order to wash the crime scene, destroying crucial evidence.

Problems in the system

Legal experts are of the opinion that by distracting the ATCs with litigation not relating to actual incidents of terrorism, actual terrorists’ trials have been delayed. They attribute this chiefly to the incompetence of the investigation officers concerned.

Rana Abdul Qayyum, a lawyer who deals with the terrorism-related cases, told Dawn that investigation officers sometimes accept bribes parties in exchange for inserting terrorism-related offences in FIRs registered against their rivals. In such matters, the ATC judge can order the deletion of the terrorism-related offence from the FIR. “This has happened a number of times in the past and those matters were referred back to ordinary courts” he added.

Syed Mohammad Tayyab, a police special prosecutor, admitted that there were lacunas in the investigation process. But he maintains that after police register an FIR, it is the responsibility of the prosecutor to examine the nature of the offences and ensure that only cases related to heinous offences and incidents of terrorism be filed before the ATC.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2014