SHC seeks AG’s arguments on plea seeking publication of reports in Baldia fire, Uzair Baloch cases

Updated May 21, 2019

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Notice issued in case of financial assistance from federal government for payment of arsh, diyat and daman. — DawnNewsTV/File
Notice issued in case of financial assistance from federal government for payment of arsh, diyat and daman. — DawnNewsTV/File

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday sought arguments from the Sindh Advocate General on a petition seeking publication of inquiry reports on Baldia factory fire, Uzair Baloch’s confessional statements and other high-profile criminal cases.

A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro, asked the top provincial government law officer to make his submissions on the next date and adjourned the hearing till Aug 5.

At the outset, Barrister Mohammad Umer Soomro, counsel for petitioner Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, submitted that his client was currently a federal minister and access to information was the basic right of every citizen.

The counsel stated that the provincial chief secretary wanted to save the skin of the police officials and officers who had been promoted and posted on important posts, adding that the officers serving in the police department had allegedly remained involved in violence in the city.

Notice issued in case of financial assistance from federal government for payment of arsh, diyat and daman

The counsel further stated that the joint investigation teams constituted to probe major incidents had identified the causes of violence and crimes, but the provincial government was trying to hush up the same for reasons best known to it.

The bench directed the Sindh AG to appear on the next date of hearing and argue on the petition, and fixed the same on Aug 5.

The petition was filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, who had approached the court against the provincial chief secretary and others for not providing reports.

The PTI leader in his petition submitted that the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Law had been passed by the provincial assembly which allowed every citizen the “right to information”.

He stated that he had requested the chief secretary multiple times to provide copies of the JIT reports of the Baldia factory fire incident, alleged crimes of Lyari gang-war leader Uzair Baloch and cases against a former chairperson of the Fishermen Cooperative Society, Nisar Morai, but he had failed to provide the required information.

“The publication of the JIT reports is important to ensure that the true culprits are not able to evade justice. The precedent of making investigation reports public has been set by the Lahore High Court, which had on Sept 21 this year ordered the report of Justice Ali Baqar Najafi on the Model Town massacre in Lahore to be made public,” he submitted in the petition.

He asked the court to direct the authorities concerned to make public the investigation reports under Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Convicts’ compensation

Another bench, meanwhile, issued a notice to the secretary, ministry of human rights, on the issue of lowering the age of convicts from 60 to 40 years, to avail the financial assistance from the federal government for the payment of the amount of compensation (arsh, diyat and daman).

During the hearing of a petition seeking details of those convicts languishing in prisons due to non-payment of compensation, additional advocate general Ghulam Mustafa Mahesar filed a copy of the summary showing the present status of the convicted persons, who had completed their sentences, but were still in prison for want of payment of arsh, diyat and daman.

Kazi Nazir Ahmed, DIG of the Central Prison Karachi, undertook to deposit with the SHC Nazir the diyat amount for the three appellants whose appeals were pending in the SHC.

Headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Sheikh, the two-judge bench directed the DIG to do the same during the day.

Petitioner Shahab Usto submitted that a convict, Mohammad Hanif, had completed his sentence in 2018, and was aged about 61 years and fell within the existing rules, as such the federal government had to do the needful in terms of Rule 8 of the Arsh, Diyat and Daman Rules, 2007.

Deputy attorney general for the federal government Abdul Jabbar Qureshi undertook to contact Rabia Javeri Agha, Secretary of the Ministry of Human Rights, for the issue of lowering the age of the eligible convicts from 60 years to 40, so that they could avail this facility.

Advocate Usto petitioned the SHC and submitted that the underprivileged convicts had been languishing in different prisons of Sindh just for non-payment of arsh, diyat and daman as they had completed the respective sentences and the authorities concerned were not taking any steps though they were bound under the Diyat, Arsh and Daman Funds Rules, 2007 to provide financial assistance or soft loans to such prisoners.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2019