Dawn News

LAHORE, Dec 23: The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned till Friday (today) appeals filed by three men challenging their conviction in a grenade attack on a Taxila church on Aug 9, 2002, and directed Additional IG Mushtaq Sukhera to entrust investigation to a senior police officer and personally supervise the proceedings. On Friday, the court will hear arguments on statements of witnesses, including a magistrate.

Appellants Saifur Rehman, Muhammad Ayaz, and Abu Bakar were given death sentence by an anti-terrorism court of Rawalpindi on March 31, 2004. The Lahore High Court confirmed their death sentence on Dec 12, 2006.

According to the prosecution, the convicts had attacked the church on Aug 9, 2002 which left four Christian women and 25 other men and women injured.

Besides raising several technical objections, the appellants’ counsel contended that the police had implicated his clients for their participation in Afghan Jihad. He said though his clients had been fighting the “holy war”, they had not committed any terrorist activity on Pakistani soil.

When the court resumed hearing of the appeals on second consecutive day, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed that police’s inefficiency was bringing a bad name to the judiciary.

“Investigation lacking evidence leaves the courts with no option but to acquit the accused in high-profile cases,” the chief justice said while expressing displeasure over the investigation carried out in the case.

“We do not want to award unnecessary punishments but police’s failure in producing evidence against the accused compels us to release them unpunished,” the CJP added.

At the outset, the bench consisting of Chief Justice Chaudhry, Justice Jawad S. Khawaja and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday noticed that the police investigators had taken the case as a petty crime incident and showed their ‘usual’ performance, whereas the case required to be investigated by skilled officers.

The CJP summoned additional inspector-general Mushtaq Sukhera on a short notice so that he could have first-hand knowledge of what his investigators had been doing with a high-profile case.

“You have to take effective measures to make the investigation process better,” the CJP directed the additional IG when the latter appeared before the apex court.

Pointing out many lacunae in investigation, the chief justice directed the additional IG to ask his investigators to assist prosecutors so that punishment to criminals could be ensured.

The chief justice said that investigating agencies across the world attached top priority to protect witnesses but in Pakistan nobody dares to testify merely to save his or her life.

“Have you ever thought about this aspect?” Justice Ramday asked the additional IG adding that who would come to courts if the police did not ensure his/her protection.

Justice Ramday reminded the additional IG that his investigators had miserably failed in finding any clue to the attackers even though one of the attackers was killed on the spot with his national identity card in his pocket.

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