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KARACHI: An antiterrorism court deferred on Saturday the indictment of Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar and other suspects in three identical cases pertaining to the May 12, 2007 mayhem.

The Karachi mayor, Umair Siddiqui, Mohammad Nasir and Nasir Zia are among 38 suspects — said to be associated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement — who have been nominated in the cases pertaining to rioting, attempted murder and terrorism lodged at the airport police station during the May 12 chaos.

Around 50 people were killed and over 100 wounded in attacks on rallies organised by members of political parties and legal fraternity who had tried to receive the then deposed chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, at Karachi airport ahead of a lawyers’ gathering.

Justice Chaudhry was forced to fly back to Islamabad after having been restricted to the airport for nine hours. Wasim Akhtar was home adviser to the Sindh chief minister at the time.

Court asked to exempt Wasim Akhtar from personal appearance as he is on a visit to UK

On Saturday, three identical cases were fixed before the antiterrorism court-II judge for indictment of the suspects. However, the charge could not be framed as two of the suspects, including Mayor Akhtar, were not present.

The defence counsel for the mayor moved an application stating that Mr Akhtar could not appear before court since he was on a visit to the United Kingdom and pleaded that the applicant be exempted from personal appearance.

The defence counsel for another suspect also moved an application submitting that his client was ill and was unable to appear before the court and pleaded to condone his personal appearance. Allowing the pleas, the court fixed the matters for indictment of the suspects in three cases on Oct 6.

It directed all the suspects to appear on the next hearing, when charges would be framed against them. Meanwhile, the court repeated non-bailable warrants for the arrest of around 18 absconding suspects in the same cases.

The Karachi mayor and at least 18 others are out on bail, while around 18 are absconding. Only Umair Siddiqui is currently in jail.

On May 15, ATC-II had framed charges against Mayor Akhtar, Umair Siddiqui, Mohammad Nasir and Nasir Zia among 20 persons accused of arson, rioting and terrorism in one of the four cases pertaining to the May 12 mayhem.

In all, seven cases have been pending trial since May 2007 before two antiterrorism courts in Karachi, as the prosecution failed to make any breakthrough in the investigation. Four cases are pending trial before ATC-II and three before ATC-III.

The cases have been registered under sections 146 (rioting), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 109 (punishment for abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code, read with Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, at the airport police station.

In July 2016, the police had arrested Wasim Akhtar and others in seven cases pertaining to the May 12 mayhem after an antiterrorism court had dismissed his pre-arrest bail application with that of Dr Asim Hussain and others in a separate case related to treatment of terrorists and gangsters allegedly at the private hospitals’ chain of the former federal minister.

Later, ATC-II had granted him bail in four cases in October 2016 and also exempted him from personal appearance.

According to the investigation report, Mr Akhtar had allegedly admitted his involvement before interrogators, and on his information one of the key suspects, Aslam alias Kala, was arrested.

The investigating officers contended in investigation reports that the police had recovered from Aslam a weapon allegedly used in the killings during the riots.

Loudspeaker violation case

A local court (East) directed the prosecutor to produce a police file in a case pertaining to alleged violation of the Loudspeaker Act registered against MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar and others at the Soldier Bazaar police station in 2015.

A case was registered under sections 147 (rioting), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) and 341 (wrongful restraint) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 6/7 of the Sindh Sound (Regulation) Act, 2015, commonly known as the Loudspeaker Act, at the Soldier Bazaar police station.

Dr Sattar, Wasim Akhtar, Nasreen Jalil, Wasay Jalil, Faisal Subzwari, Haider Abbas Rizvi, Kanwar Naveed Jameel, Mohammad Hussain, Kamal Pasha and 1,500-2,000 unknown MQM workers have been booked in the case. The investigation officer had shown them all as absconders.

The police booked the MQM leaders and workers for allegedly taking out a rally without permission near the Quaid’s mausoleum, blocking roads, misusing loudspeakers and rioting on Nov 26, 2015 in protest against frequent raids and arrests of party workers by Rangers.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018