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KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the provincial government to establish a tribunal of inquiry within two weeks to probe into the May 12, 2007 violence and fix responsibility after finding out the perpetrators and their accomplices.

While disposing of a suo motu reference and a petition pending before the SHC for the last 11 years, the court also ordered the Sindh government to constitute joint investigation teams (JIT) as required under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 to trace out the persons involved in the cases in which police had filed A-class (unknown or untraceable accused) reports and to further investigate all the other cases pertaining to the ugly incidents that took place on May 12, 2007.

The two-judge bench comprising Justices Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Mohammad Karim Khan Agha also directed the provincial authorities to come up with a report within two weeks about details of the compensation paid to the May 12 victims or their legal heirs including the amount paid, outstanding claims, calculation of amount and time of payment.

Mayor Wasim Akhtar welcomes the fresh inquiry into 11-year-old events

Moreover, the division bench requested the SHC chief justice to appoint a sitting judge of the high court to monitor the trial of around 65 cases about May 12 incidents through monthly reports from the trial courts concerned.

The bench ruled that initially the trial courts should give an explanation for their failure to dispose of these cases despite a passage of over 11 years and who had been responsible for such delay.

The 49-page judgement authored by Justice Agha further stated that the one-man tribunal of inquiry to be set up under the West Pakistan Tribunal of Inquiries Ordinance 1969 will be headed by a sitting, or a former, judge of the SHC or retired from the Supreme Court.

The provincial government would immediately make a request to the SHC CJ to appoint the head of the tribunal and the tribunal will complete its inquiry within three months subject to any extension, if required, granted by SHC, it added.

The judgement further said that the provincial government would provide at its own expense the building and all necessary facilities and equipment to the tribunal.

“On completion of its report the tribunal shall submit the same to this court and simultaneously make it (without reduction) public as the people have a right to information under Article 19(A) of the Constitution and this would also appear to be the appropriate course as the proceedings of the tribunal would have been paid out of the public’s hard earned taxes. The purpose of the report in our view would be entirely defeated if it remained hidden away gathering dust on some shelf in the Sindh Secretariat or some other place like so many other reports of the other tribunals/commission of inquiry.”

Tribunal’s ToRs

The terms of reference of the tribunal/commission of inquiry will be to inquire into and determine whether the citizens of Karachi’s access to justice in the provincial metropolis on May 12, 2007 was denied; how and why an angry and aggressive mob was able to [lay] siege to the Malir Bar Association, City Courts and Sindh High Court on that day, if indeed, this was the case despite the presence of police and why police failed to timely clear these miscreants.

To determine the hierarchy of the chain of command and control at the political, bureaucratic and law enforcement agencies especially the police and their interaction before, during and immediately after the May 12 incidents, what orders passed by chain of command to the police as how to react on May 12 if any law and order situation arose as was anticipated by the Sindh government and who gave such orders and who was responsible for implementing those orders and what orders were given on that day to tackle the law and order situation and why police remained unable to deal with the law and order situation and was such failure on their part negligence or criminal negligence and to fix responsibility.

To determine whether the security arrangements put in place on May 12 were to genuinely ensure the safe journey of the then deposed chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry from airport to his engagements in the city or in fact an attempt to ensure that he could not reach the Malir bar, City Courts and SHC as per his schedule. Were the lawyers and supporters of Justice Chaudhry targeted and if so was it by the activists of any political party and if so what was the name of the party and who were its senior members.

Whether the law enforcement agencies especially police failed to perform their duties; whether Pakistan Rangers were called by the Sindh government to assist in maintaining law and order and if there was any delay in calling Rangers who was responsible for such a delay.

The bench asked the proposed tribunal to inquire why the permission to the Awami National Party, Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and other political parties to hold rallies were not withdrawn prior to May 12 when the then CJ was requested to cancel his engagements in Karachi.

Whether there was any involvement/collusion of the federal government with the provincial government in attempting to ensure that the then deposed CJ could not attend events in the city on May 12 and if so what extent and what level and identify those involved, it added.

Mayor welcomes SHC order

Welcoming the SHC order, Mayor Wasim Akhtar, who was adviser for home affairs to the Sindh chief minister when the events transpired, said that his party, the MQM, had been demanding for constitution of an inquiry commission immediately after the incidents.

“In fact, we have been demanding a judicial inquiry into the incidents since May 13, 2007 so that the real culprits would be exposed and brought to book,” he said.

The mayor was talking to media persons during a visit to the Quaid’s mausoleum on the 70th death anniversary of the founder of the nation.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018