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KARACHI: Trials pertaining to violent clashes in the city on May 12, 2007, have yet to formally begin in courts as police show little interest in pursuing them despite availability of ‘crucial’ evidence, it emerged on Friday.

The armed clashes between activists of political parties that broke out on the streets during deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s visit to the city, had left over 50 people dead and 100 injured.

Uprisings and Downfalls: Attempts at ousting Pakistani governments

The country’s then top judge had arrived in the city on the invitation of the Sindh High Court Bar Association to address a huge gathering of lawyers on the premises of the SHC building, but had to remain confined to the airport before flying back to Islamabad as violence spread across Karachi.

While various cases were registered by the lawyers and the political activists at different police stations, trials for only seven cases could begin and that too moved at a snail’s pace.

Currently, four cases are pending trial before the antiterrorism court-II and three before the antiterrorism court-III since long as police investigators could not make any major breakthrough in the investigation.

However, the cases took a dramatic turn after nine years when the Rangers arrested Kamran Farooq, a member of the Sindh Assembly belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, who was absconding in several cases pertaining to May 12, on Dec 16, 2016.

Farooq, who was booked in two cases for allegedly carrying grenades and unlicensed weapons, had recorded his confessional statement before a judicial magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), making startling revelations about the alleged involvement of the MQM leadership in one of the most violent episodes of the country’s history.

All the cases are still pending at the pre-trial stage

In his confessional statement, recorded on Dec 20, the then interned MQM MPA had not only confessed to his involvement in the May 12, 2007 mayhem but also implicated party leader Dr Farooq Sattar.

According to his statement, a copy of which is available with Dawn, suspect Farooq stated that he joined the MQM in 2000 and worked as the party’s “unit and sector in-charge”.

He added that he was given a party ticket to contest the 2013 general election on the recommendation of the then chief of the Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, Hammad Siddiqui.

About his involvement in the May 12 events, he told the magistrate that a meeting was held on May 10, 2007 at the party’s Nine Zero headquarters in the presence of Dr Farooq Sattar, Mr Siddiqui and other leaders.

He said that the “party leadership” had asked him and other “sector in-charges” to ensure that lawyers could not reach the Karachi airport to welcome Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

He testified that he along with his armed accomplices blocked many thoroughfares on May 12 and resorted to firing leaving many wounded.

While the MQM spokesperson had rejected Farooq’s confessional statement, the Rangers prosecution department insisted that it was still a crucial piece of evidence.

“Two years have passed since Kamran Farooq made his confession, which is crucial evidence legally admissible in court as the same was recorded before a judicial magistrate,” Advocate Sajid Mehboob Sheikh, head of the Rangers prosecution department, told Dawn.

Police lethargy?

“However, the police high-ups have failed to use this evidence in all the cases relating to the May 12 incidents till today,” he claimed.

He cited the example of a similar confessional statement recorded by the defunct Peoples Amn Committee’s (PAC) chief Uzair Jan Baloch, who was interrogated in a criminal case, who had made startling disclosures about the involvement of high-profile political figures and police high-ups in various criminal activities.

“Uzair Baloch’s confessional statement is now being used in 62 criminal cases pending against him and others being tried in different antiterrorism courts,” argued the paramilitary force’s special prosecutor, who is defending the Rangers cases in the ATCs.

On the other hand, the judicial sources said all the cases were still pending at the pre-trial stage, as the police had yet to nominate those named by Kamran Farooq in his confessional statement.

Some believed that there was a lack of interest on the part of the provincial prosecution department.

When contacted by Dawn, former prosecutor general Shahadat Awan, who was responsible for getting the confessional statement of Kamran Farooq, seemed least bothered about the matter.

Awan put the responsibility of having used the confession in the cases on the Rangers, which was not performing role of prosecution in these cases.

The lawyers’ leaders interviewed by Dawn demanded that the law-enforcement agencies as well as the government should ensure that justice was dispensed to the families of the victims and survivors of the May 12 bloodshed and its perpetrators were punished.

It may be recalled that while the police had booked and arrested 15 suspects, including City Mayor Wasim Akhtar, Mohammad Aslam alias Kala, Anwarul Hasan, Faisal Wahab, Azhar Qureshi and Mohammed Hanif in four cases relating to May 12 mayhem and had submitted a final charge sheet against them before the administrative judge of antiterrorism courts in Sept 2016, it had failed to make Kamran Farooq’s confessional statement part of evidence in those cases.

Currently, the case against the mayor and others is fixed for May 15 for their indictment, as they did not appear at four consecutive hearings.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2018