THE Courtroom No 1 was full to its capacity in the Peshawar High Court. Lawyers in large number, scores of police high-ups and some members of the Shia community had turned up in the case related to targeted killings in the provincial capital and other areas during the last couple of weeks. While several targeted killings took place in Peshawar, it was the brutal murder of senior advocate Malik Jarar Hussain which moved the lawyers’ community as well as the high court.
Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan took suo motu notice of the issue after the PHC Bar Association sent a letter to him with the request to pay heed to the growing menace. On Feb 14 the top brass of the provincial police including the provincial police officer Akber Khan Hoti appeared on court notice and explained the hurdles they had been facing in tracing killers in such cases.
The members of the Shia community narrated the ordeal through which they have been passing nowadays. “We are tired of picking the dead bodies. Our family members are scared. Our children have not been going to school for the last many days as we can’t take them out of our residences,” said one of them. In a choked voice he questioned: “Are we are not citizens of this country?” He added: “We can’t even go out to fetch milk or other daily use items.”
Another one said that a few days ago an explosion took place outside their mosque in Hangu district which left scores of people killed. He regretted that whenever they gave any information to the police about any suspected activity the police in turn informed the suspected persons about the complaint lodge by them turning them more vulnerable to attack.
The most encouraging thing in the courtroom that day was expression of solidarity with these people as they were accompanied by a large number of lawyers who belonged to Sunni community. They were condemning the incidents of targeted killings in equally strong terms. They said that they were equally moved and shattered with the sudden death of Malik Jarar.
The legal fraternity also observed boycott of courts for three days in the provincial capital and several other districts. This show of solidarity proved that the forces of obscurantism, which had been trying to create a rift between the communities, had failed in their nefarious conspiracies.
Ever since the killing of Malik Jarar on Feb 8, the lawyers continued to ask why he had been targeted. Keeping in view the humble and friendly nature of Malik Jarar, his death drew widespread condemnation. He was a former vice-chairman of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its sitting council member. Known among his friends and colleagues as a harmless person always keeping a low profile, he had filed several pro bono cases related to human rights. On that unfortunate day he was taking his two sons to school in the morning when the unidentified killers ambushed his car at Gulbahar Colony, a congested city locality.
The pattern of all such incidents is almost identical. The attackers are usually travelling on a motorbike and the one sitting in the rear fires at the target.
Chief Justice Dost Mohammad, heading a two-member bench, ordered the police officials to trace out the killers within a month. The bench conducted marathon hearing in the case and issued an order carrying wide-ranging directives to the police. The chief justice also questioned the performance of the intelligence networks including the provincial special branch police. He asked why their intelligence institutions failed in giving a clue regarding the killers despite so many incidents.
The bench observed that the telephone calls made from the cellphone and landlines or messages sent through SMS needed to be filtered in these areas where these tragedies took place both before and after the occurrence. The court directed the regional director of Intelligence Bureau and sector commander of Inter Services Intelligence to assist investigators in this regard by filtering entire data of calls and SMS messages sent during suspected days including the day of occurrence.
One of the most important directives given by the court to the police was to assign the responsibility of checking such crimes to a quick response force to which universal telephone numbers should be given so that general public could directly contact them at the earliest for providing any information regarding suspected activities.
The PHCBA and its cabinet members believe that it was need of the hour that the members of the society should remain united against the elements involved in creating sectarian hatred. They believe that it will be a defeat for these hate mongers.