MANY acts of terrorism are criminal conspiracies in which a number of operatives play various roles to translate plans into action. These components, among others, include recruitment, recce of possible locations, logistical details such as transport, weapons, and giving shelter to the attackers. On Monday, an anti-terrorism court in Karachi found a man guilty of harbouring terrorists and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. According to the prosecution, the convict had obtained a flat on rent near Urdu Bazaar and when the police received a tip-off about TTP militants being holed up there, they raided the place. The hours-long armed stand-off that ensued resulted in injuries to two law-enforcement personnel and deaths of four terrorists, as well as a female accomplice and an infant.
Every individual who is party to a terrorist plot (or any other criminal conspiracy for that matter) is assumed to be acting in furtherance of a common objective. This is so even though he may not know the identity of the other co-conspirators — a tactic often resorted to by the criminal mastermind in order to prevent the entire plot from unravelling should one operative be apprehended. The individual could also be unaware that he is being duped into facilitating a crime. Owners of rental properties can be particularly vulnerable on this score; in the case cited above, the owner of the flat was fortunate not to be implicated as he had abided by the tenancy registration law. This legislation makes it mandatory for copies of rent agreements and identity documents of new tenants, as well as character references for them, to be registered with the local police within 48 hours of moving into a property. Noncompliance can leave the owners liable to imprisonment and a fine. The purpose of the legislation is to curb the use of rented properties to facilitate terrorism and other crimes. There are several instances where properties have been rented specifically to aid in the commission of violent attacks. The multiple suicide-bombing in December 2003 that targeted then president Pervez Musharraf’s convoy in Rawalpindi is a case in point. Two houses and a shop overlooking the road that the general was to travel on, and where the attack was planned, were acquired on rent in order to surveil the route. As happened in this instance, all the links in criminal conspiracies need to be unearthed to conclude a successful prosecution.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019