ATCs can take up juvenile cases: FIA

Published Jun 02, 2012 10:03pm

RAWALPINDI, June 2: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday presented before an anti-terrorism court a notification of the federal government that empowered the ATCs to take up juvenile cases.

During the hearing of Benazir’s murder case in Adiyala jail, FIA’s senior public prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told the ATC presided over by Judge Shahid Rafique that most of the young accused involved in terrorism cases could not be prosecuted by the ATCs because of the legal bar imposed under the previous Juvenile Justice System Ordinance.

He said that masterminds of terrorist attacks preferred to recruit youths for their dirty work. The law-enforcement agencies could not perform in an efficient manner unless a proper legislation to counter the strategies of terrorists was in place, he said.

The public prosecutor pointed out that the courts for control of narcotics substance were already exercising powers of juvenile courts.

Then he submitted the notification issued by the ministry of interior on May 30, 2012, and a copy of the Juvenile Justice System (amendment) Ordinance, 2012.

The notification read: “The federal government is pleased to designate the existing anti-terrorism courts established under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 to exercise the powers of juvenile justice courts in the areas of their respective jurisdiction.”

The FIA prosecutor told Dawn the counsel for Aitzaz Shah, an accused in the murder case, wanted to take benefit of the juvenile ordinance, but the recent notification would not allow him to do so.

Naseer Tanoli, the defence counsel for Aitzaz Shah, argued before the court that the recent legislation could not have any effect on the case of his client because it was not issued with a retrospective effect and his client was arrested in 2008 when he was under 18 years of age.

The juvenile cases reported after the promulgation of the ordinance would fall under its purview, he added.

Advocate Tanoli told Dawn that the ordinance was issued after he filed an application for transfer of his client’s case from the ATC to the juvenile court. The defence counsel said he had filed the application after the Lahore High Court had declared a couple of months ago that the ATCs could not take up the juvenile cases.

The FIA also submitted in the court a statement by American journalist Mark Siegel along with a supplementary challan which mentioned him as its witness in the case.

Prosecutor Zulfiqar Ali told the court that Mr Siegel’s statement had been recorded by FIA’s Additional Director Azad Khan in Washington in which the journalist claimed that Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf extended threats to Ms Bhutto when she was planning to return to Pakistan in 2007.

In his statement, Mr Siegel said that on Sept 25, 2007, when he was with Ms Bhutto at her Washington residence, Mr Musharraf telephoned her and when the call ended after about six minutes he noticed that the PPP leader was upset.

When she was asked about the reason, Ms Bhutto told him that Mr Musharraf had extended threats to her, used abusive language and warned that he would not provide any security to her if she returned to Pakistan before elections, Mr Siegel said.

According to the statement, Mr Musharraf asked Ms Bhutto that her security would be commensurate with the cooperation she would extend to him.

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