PESHAWAR: Thirty-year-old Yaseen’s* brother was accused in a debt-related case in Charsadda’s Shabqadar tehsil. He has been imprisoned for days now.
His hearing was scheduled on the unfortunate day when a blast ripped through a lower court in Shabqadar, killing 16 people.
He was cleared of charges and may have been freed by the court in its final verdict. But his suffering prolongs as he languishes in prison while courts remain shut ever since the dastardly attack on Mar 7, claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan splinter group Jamatul Ahrar.
“Over 1200 cases – criminal and civil – are pending and no hearing has taken place since the blast,” said Sher Qadar Khan, president of the Shabqadar Bar Association.
He said courts had remained closed due to “security reasons.”
“The bar association has held frequent meetings with the district administration and has planned improved security measures. But the administration is reluctant to open courts for proceedings.”
The district lies some 30km to the northeast of provincial capital Peshawar, and is divided into three tehsils: Shabqadar, Tangi and Charsadda.
While courts remain suspended in Shabqadar, proceedings have followed routine in the other two tehsils.
Khan lamented the pending cases, which he said were exacerbating the suffering of thousands “just because because the administration is not letting courts open for hearings.”
He said the bar’s representatives had even met chief justice of the Peshawar High Court and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak but thus far no headway could be made.
“In four meetings with the administration, the chief justice and district administration assured us of re-opening the courts but nothing has come of those assurances.”
Khan said the bar had been asked to “start proceedings in a rented market near the court premises.”
“Is the market securer than the court building?” Khan questioned. “Why don’t they resume hearings at the court building with tighter security?”
He said court proceedings could not be conducted in the market area where “arrangements could not be made possible.”
Khan threatened to go on a hunger strike along with bar members and said they would stage a protest outside the Supreme Court if courts are not reopened by Saturday.
A clerical staff of the lower court, who wished not to be named, said “heightened security arrangements were planned for the court premises in a meeting last week but the judges are reluctant to attend courts.”
He said under the proposed plan, security personnel deployed at the court premises were to be increased from six to 20, while fences and barriers were to surround the building.”
Inamullah Jan, Deputy Superintendent of Shaqadar's police, reasoned security issues for the closure of lower courts.
He said the district administration was planing to shift the court building to a safer place.
“The current building is situated in the premises of the Shabqadar bazar, which is more vulnerable to terror acts.”
But he said police had already provided fool-proof security to the courts. “We are now looking forward to the government's decision on the issue.”
Another resident of Shabqadar, Haji Zafar Khan, told Dawn.com his “relative,” who was charged of theft, has to remain in prison despite the “complainant having withdrawn the case.”
“His would-be final hearing has been pending for two weeks now.”
*Name changed to protect identity