KARACHI, Sept 20: The Supreme Court observed on Friday that the provincial and federal governments now appeared to be serious in making efforts to control law and order situation in the city.

A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry made the observation after going through two confidential reports, one filed by the federal government and the other by Sindh Rangers, on security situation in Karachi during hearings on implementation of the court’s verdict in the law and order case.

The other members of the bench are Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Amir Hani Muslim and Jutice Azmat Saeed.

The bench expressed satisfaction over the performance of police and Rangers over the past 15 days and directed them to continue efforts to bring the situation to normality.

But it chided police for their failure to arrest absconders in criminal cases and directed the authorities to ensure their arrest.

The bench was surprised when it learnt from Sindh Prosecutor General Shahadat Awan that there were 33,665 absconders in Karachi since 2007 and they included 1, 486 involved in terrorist activities.

The prosecutor general stated that in all there were 110,000 absconders across the province for the past five years.

Giving district-wise breakup of Karachi, he said, there were 4,736 absconders in South district, 5,689 in Central, 14,240 in Malir, 4,450 in East and 4,550 in West.

“How can one be safe when such a large number of alleged criminals is at large in the city,” a judge wondered.

Another judge asked the prosecutor general why properties of the absconders were not forfeited.

The chief justice said absconders and proclaimed offenders must have been instrumental in criminal activities in the city.

He said that things would have been much better had the police force been depoliticised.

The bench said that the absconders could have been arrested had the police been dedicated and committed to curbing crime.It rejected a statement made by Sindh police chief Shahid Nadeem Baloch that he had launched a campaign to arrest absconders and said that the outlaws would have been arrested if he had made any serious effort.

To a court query, Mr Awan said that about 12,734 persons nominated in different cases had been benefited from the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

The bench directed the provincial government to ensure sustainability of efforts it was making to improve law and order in the city and make all-out efforts to recover illicit arms.

But, it observed, the government had not undertaken the task of verifying arms licenses issued in Karachi despite clear directives contained in the apex court’s judgment two years ago.

The court directed the provincial and federal government to take effective and extraordinary efforts to recover illicit arms in the city.

To a court’s query, Director General of Sindh Rangers Maj Gen Rizwan Akhtar said that the city was replete with illicit arms. So was conceded by the chief secretary.

The bench directed the provincial government to collect data of licenses issued over the past five years and launch a campaign for verification and scrutiny of arms licenses.

It directed the government to ask people living in the city to surrender all kind of arms for scrutiny within a period specified by the government and, after that, task Rangers and police with recovering unregistered and illegal weapons.

The bench recalled that it issued directives for registration of illegal immigrants after it was informed that there were over 2.5 million aliens in the city.

It ordered the federal and provincial authorities to look into the issue while observing that “it is one of the major factors disturbing peace”.

The court ordered its office to seal the reports of the federal government and Rangers pertaining to ongoing operation in the city as requested by Attorney General Munir A. Malik and the DG of Rangers.

The hearing was adjourned for two weeks.

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