KARACHI, Sept 3: Former law minister Khalid Anwer urged the high court on Monday to supervise the investigation of the May 12 events in the city and associate the Sindh High Court and Karachi Bar Associations with the task.
A seven-member bench heard the amicus curiae at length and adjourned its suo motu proceedings to Thursday for day-to-day hearing. It asked the Karachi Port Trust, which has submitted a record of the exit of containers between May 10 and 11, to file the record of their entry on May 13.
Television channels Geo, ARY OneWorld and Aaj, which have produced footage of their coverage of the May 12 events, were told to file transcripts of their relevant talk shows and press conferences. The contempt case against Chief Minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim could not be taken up and Advocate Wasim Sajjad, his counsel, was told that he would be informed of the new date.
Advocate Raja Qureshi, who represents the provincial government, was asked to submit translated versions of the 54 first information reports (FIRs) of the incidents occurring on May 12. “We would bear with you,” he was told when he said that it was an uphill task in so short a time. Deputy Attorney-General Rizwan Ahmed Siddiqui informed the bench that he would represent Attorney-General Malik Mohammed Qayyum and submit detailed comments. He filed a brief statement adopting most of the averments made by home secretary G.M. Mohatram Naqvi. Advocate Iqtidar Ali Hashmi submitted a reply on behalf of Home Affairs Adviser Waseem Akhtar. Almost all the respondent officers have adopted the home secretary’s version of the events. They were asked to file affidavits.
Summing up his submissions, Mr Anwer, who was a member of the Nawaz Sharif cabinet from 1997 to 1999, said the police was aware of the possibility of a major breakdown of law and order at least two days in advance. One political party, he said without naming the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, was allowed to take hold of the city. The city district government only made a recommendation in respect of the MQM rally. A series of high-level meetings were held about the situation likely to occur on May 12 but no record was kept.
That the containers, tankers and buses were used to block roads, he said, was an admitted fact. The KPT has expressed its ignorance about the ownership of the containers but the registration numbers of the vehicles could be seen in the TV footage. The SHCBA had requested only three containers for use by the media within the SHC building but the entire building was ringed by vehicles. The containers were removed as soon as Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry left. They could have been removed earlier. The Aaj channel was admittedly situated in a volatile and sensitive area but no precautionary measures were taken to protect it. Not a single arrest was made in connection with the firing on the station. A few firearms and empties were recovered and fewer arrests made, though the entire city was in turmoil for the whole day and 50 people were killed.
The lawyer pointed out discrepancies and contradictions in the home secretary’s counter-affidavit. The police or home department had no authority to request the CJ to postpone his visit or avoid travelling on Sharea Faisal. The police was duty-bound to keep the roads clear and prevent violence but it failed on both counts. The lawyer requested the court to supervise the investigation and prosecution of cases and seek periodic reports of progress from the investigators. Advocate Raja Qureshi opposed the proposal, saying that the direct involvement of the high court in investigation and prosecution would prejudice the case of the accused.
In a brief concluding statement, amicus curiae Qazi Faez Isa said that under the Sindh Local Government Ordinance, the city district government had no power to allow the MQM rally. The permission was, in fact, accorded by Adviser Waseem Akhtar, who is a non-entity insofar as the law is concerned. There is provision for advisers at the federal level only. The bench asked him to file a copy of the Lahore High Court judgments on the subject.
The lawyer said the permission was sought by Anwar Alam of the MQM Rabita Committee and he would see the Political Parties Act to ascertain whether he could act on behalf of the party.
Relying on a 1995 Supreme Court judgment, Advocate Khalid Anwer said earlier that a government functionary was not bound to comply with an unlawful order. He could not take shelter behind superior orders. In fact, the higher officer would be equally liable for an illegal order. Citing provisions of the Police Order, 2002, he said the police should enjoy complete autonomy in performance of its functions without being influenced by politicians or political parties.
The bench consists of Justices Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Mushir Alam, Azizullah M. Memon, Khilji Arif Hussain, Maqbool Baqar and Ali Sain Dino Metlo.