KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Thursday directed the West SSP to provide adequate security to the private witnesses who are scared of testifying against the suspected killers of renowned social activist Perween Rahman.

Ms Rehman, head of the Orangi Pilot Project, who devoted her life to the development of impoverished neighbourhoods across the country, was gunned down near her office in Orangi Town on March 13, 2013.

Five accused, namely Ayaz Shamzai alias Swati, Amjad Hussain Khan, Ahmed Khan alias Ahmed Ali alias Pappu Kashmiri, Mohammad Imran Swati and Raheem Swati, have been charged with her murder.

On Thursday, when the matter came up before the ATC-XIII judge, who conducted trial of five detained accused in the judicial complex inside the Central Jail, none of the nine private witnesses turned up.

Counsel for complainant says they are scared to testify against suspects

Advocate Salahuddin Panhwar, counsel for the complainant, said that out of the total 29 witnesses, nine were private persons, who were scared of coming to the court to testify against the five detained accused persons.

“The witnesses are not willing to come forward as the accused are powerful and can harm them,” he added.

Mr Panhwar recalled that the Supreme Court, where certain human rights groups had filed a petition to seek investigation into the social worker’s murder, had in October 2017 directed the Sindh police to provide adequate security to the slain activist’s family as well as witnesses.

The apex court’s directive came when Rahman’s sister complained that the family was receiving serious threats following arrest of the key suspect, Azam Swati, the lawyer added.

He complained that later the trial court had also directed the then West DIG to provide security to the complainant, witnesses and counsel appearing in the case, but nothing had been done so far.

He told the court that previously it was informed that a DSP was tasked to give security to the private witnesses, but none of them turned up since no such arrangements had so far been made.

The counsel pleaded to direct the police high-ups to do the same.

The judge directed the West SSP to provide adequate security and protection to the private witnesses so that they could appear and record their testimonies before the court.

Meanwhile, the court also recorded statements of two prosecution witnesses, both police officials posted at the Pirabad police station at the time of the incident.

The witnesses deposed that during interrogation one of the detained suspect, Amjad Hussain Khan, had confessed to his involvement in the murder of Ms Rahman.

After recording their statements, the court issued notices to the remaining 20 witnesses, including nine private persons, to appear and record their statements on Sept 6.

Nine official witnesses have so far testified in the case.

Previously, the court had dismissed bail application filed by Imran Swati, who has been charged with facilitating the murder, including his father and main accused Raheem Swati, and concealing information about them.

A case was registered under Sections 302 (premeditated murder) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code at the Pirabad police station.

Later, Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 was incorporated in the case on a directive of the Supreme Court that had also ordered a judicial inquiry into the case by the then district and sessions judge (West), Ghulam Mustafa Memon.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2018