HE received 17 bullets where only one or two would have sufficed. But the militants, calling themselves the Mujahideen-i-Islami, who killed Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali succeeded in conveying their message loud and clear — they can strike at will, wherever and whenever they wished, irrespective of consequences and ‘collateral damage’ — in this case a pedestrian. The FIA’s prosecutor general was investigating many high-profile cases, including Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and the Mumbai case, and had gathered valuable information. He had been receiving threats possibly because of his efficiency that had led to the conviction of many militants and ordinary criminals. On Friday, he was scheduled to submit a charge-sheet against Pervez Musharraf in the Benazir case and was on the way to FIA headquarters when gunmen, whose exact number has not been determined, opened fire at his car while it was negotiating a U-turn.
This paper has been repeatedly emphasising the need for providing adequate protection to prosecutors, witnesses and judges because they receive threats and often fall victim to violence perpetrated by militants and criminal gangs. In Chaudhry Zulfiqar’s case, the assassination took place at a stone’s throw from the FIA building. This shows both the daredevilry of the militants and the inadequacy of the protection provided to a senior FIA official. The world over prosecutors, witnesses and judges operate in an atmosphere of peace. Where the law and order situation is precarious, the state makes special efforts to give security to all. In many South American countries with a high crime rate, governments have drawn up comprehensive plans to give a sense of security to judges and prosecutors.
In Pakistan, however, because of the absence of such measures, the rate of conviction is extremely low, perhaps 5pc. While witnesses are sometimes bribed, quite often they change their story because of threats from militants and criminals.
It is true that the law enforcement apparatus has been overstretched, especially now when the country is in the midst of an election. But the state must revisit and overhaul the security cases involving hardened criminals and motivated militants who have no qualms about shedding blood. The FIA official’s killing also shows the failure of the intelligence system. The militants are way ahead of the state, for they knew Chaudhry Zulfiqar’s routine and took precise aim when the car had slowed down to make a U-turn. Can the state be as thorough in its ways? Do the plethora of intelligence agencies we have know who these ‘Mujahideen-i-Islami’ are?