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Two TTP suspects escape from city courts

Updated July 14, 2013

KARACHI, July 13: Two suspected militants on Saturday managed to flee from the city courts shortly after they were picked out in an identification parade by a witness who also assigned their roles in the Orangi Town blast case.

Nazrab Khan and Ghulam Ishaq, said to be associated with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, made their escape just a couple of days after three undertrial prisoners facing trial in kidnapping for ransom and murder cases had fled from a washroom attached to a lock-up of the anti-terrorism courts.

The TTP suspects had been given in the custody of the Crime Investigation Department (CID) police on physical remand till July 17 by an anti-terrorism court (ATC-II) in three cases pertaining to bomb attacks on offices of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Orangi Town, North Nazimabad and Azizabad before the May 11 general elections.

The CID police had brought the suspected militants before the court of a judicial magistrate (west) for an identification parade in the Orangi Town blast case.

Judicial magistrate Mohammad Afzal Roshan conducted the parade after completing legal formalities and eyewitness Abdul Rahim picked out the suspects and assigned their roles in the commissioning of the offence.

The police officials and eyewitnesses said that after the completion of identification parade, the CID police shifted the suspects to an armoured personnel carrier parked outside the district courts (west) on the city courts premises. However, the suspects, who were separately handcuffed, came out of the APC and simply walked away through the city courts gate No 1 where two policemen had been deployed, the officials said.

While some CID policemen, who had escorted them to the APC, were present around, they somehow failed to keep a watchful eye on the suspects, the police officials said.

Strangely enough, the policemen deployed at the gate also did not notice the handcuffed suspects walking away, the police said, adding that they came to know about the incident only after the suspects had escaped.

The CID police claimed to have arrested the suspects on June 22 in the Pirabad area during an encounter and seized explosives and illicit weapons from their possession. The suspected militants were later booked under Section 324 (attempted murder), 353 (criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code, 23-A of Arms Ordinance and 4/5 of Explosive Substance Act.

The CID police booked them in other cases also after they disclosed their involvement in them during the course of interrogation.

Two people were killed and dozens of other were injured in bomb blasts near an Imambargah and an MQM election office in Orangi Town on April 27.

The other case pertained to the April 23 bomb attack at an MQM election camp near People’s Chowrangi in North Nazimabad that had left four persons dead.

Yet another case was related to the May 4 bombings outside the MQM election office in Azizabad that killed three people and injured more than 40 others.

The three cases (FIR Nos 145/2013, 174/2013 and 69/2013) were registered under Sections 302 (premeditated murder), 324 (attempt to commit murder), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) and 34 (common intention) of the penal code, Section 3/4 of the Explosive Substance Act read with Section 7 of the Anti-terrorism Act at the Orangi Town, the Taimuria and the Azizabad police stations, respectively.

Courts security

The one after another escape from the courts came as a grim reminder of the fact that a comprehensive security plan for the city courts proposed around three and a half years ago to overcome mounting security threats has yet to be implemented.

The plan had been proposed at a meeting headed by the then Sindh High Court chief justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany in February 2010. It was attended among others by office-bearers of the Karachi Bar Association, senior government functionaries and high-ranking police officers.

It was aimed at monitoring entry and exit points at the courts by installing walkthrough gates, surveillance cameras, increasing number of policemen and raising the partly-damaged boundary walls.

Under the security plan, it was decided that separate gates would be used for entry and exit while stickers would be issued for vehicles and any vehicle without a sticker would not be allowed to enter the premises. It was also decided that policewomen would be posted at the entrance and hand scanners would be given to guards to check every single person entering the court premises.

A comprehensive security plan for the city courts building was finalised after a series of meetings held over the period of a couple of months.

Presently almost all the city courts gates, some of them usually unguarded, remained open for public. Police strength was also thin while most of them were not equipped with hand scanners. Besides, walkthrough gates and surveillance cameras were not installed. It appears quiet easy for a miscreant to make his way into the courts without facing any obstacle or for an undertrial prisoner to escape through the main entrances.

The existing security arrangements at the city courts were inadequate to avert any possible tragedy. The city courts is one of the sensitive areas where besides judges, court staff and lawyers, thousands of litigants, undertrial prisoners, including suspected militants, and their families came on a daily basis.

Besides Saturday’s escape, various such incidents have taken place in the past in which many undertrial prisoners had escaped and some of them were gunned down by their rivals on the premises of the city courts because a comprehensive security plan has not been in place.

Mahmoodul Hasan, the then president of KBA and member Sindh Bar Council, had brought the matter in the notice of Supreme Court which recently directed the deputy commissioner south to consult with the representatives of legal fraternity and implement the security plan at the district courts.

Mr Hasan said that the DC south had held the meetings with the lawyers leadership and now the matter was fixed before the apex court on July 15.

He deplored the inordinate delay in implementing the security plan and held the provincial government responsible for it. However, he hoped that the plan would be implemented soon as the apex court took up the matter and started hearing it on a regular basis.