Three 2009 Ashura bombing suspects still at large as case files gather dust

Updated September 10, 2019

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Suspected Jundullah militants had confessed to the attacks, escaped from court in 2010.
Suspected Jundullah militants had confessed to the attacks, escaped from court in 2010.

KARACHI: The 2009 Ashura bombing case file keeps gathering dust in the shelves of the court as the Rangers and police have failed to re-arrest three suspected Jundullah militants, who were allegedly involved in the attack, and had escaped from their custody at the city courts, it emerged on Monday.

More than 45 people were killed as a devastating bomb blast ripped through the main Ashura procession on the M. A. Jinnah Road on December 28, 2009.

Four suspects — Murtaza, alias Shakil; Mohammad Saqib Farooqui; Wazir Mohammad and Murad Shah — said to be associated with the banned militant outfit Jundullah, were arrested in January 2010 and booked in four cases pertaining to a series of attacks on Muharram processions in Karachi in 2009.

“The four cases pertaining to the targeted attacks on the mourning processions, including the one on the main Ashura procession, remain shelved in the court’s custody since October 2010 for want of suspects,” judicial staffers at an antiterrorism court, where the cases are pending trial, told Dawn.

The witnesses had identified four detained suspects during an identification parade before a judicial magistrate at a pre-trial stage in the cases.

Suspected Jundullah militants, who were arrested after a shoot-out at Hawkesbay in 2010 and had confessed to the attacks, escaped from court the same year

However, all the suspects were got freed from the police custody by their accomplices after a gun attack on the premises of the crowded City Courts judicial complex, where the police had produced them in another case registered against them by the Anti-Car Lifting Cell, on June 20, 2010.

“After the suspects managed to flee from their custody the investigating officer informed the anti-terrorism court (ATC-III) about it,” a prosecution department official told Dawn, wishing not to be named.

“Subsequently, the court kept the cases on ‘dormant’ because the police and other law enforcement agencies have yet to show any progress regarding arrest of the suspects, who remain at large after a decade,” added the officials, requesting anonymity.

One of the four suspects, Murad Shah, was killed while fleeing, but his accomplices were never caught again.

“There is no progress in the cases till the day and the (cases) files remain shelved gathering dust,” the official added.

Abating the legal proceedings in all the cases, the trial court had issued life warrants for the arrest of three suspects on Oct 7, 2010 directing the police to produce them in court “as soon as possible”.

While the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of police said they were high-profile criminals associated with the proscribed Jundullah, the suspects were not tried in court inside the prison and the jail authorities sent them to the city courts without making proper security arrangements.

It is the responsibility of investigating officers to ask or recommend the home department through a letter to notify jail trial of hardened criminals in high-profile cases or if the jail authorities had insufficient security arrangement to take them to courts.

Justice delayed

Legal experts believed that the prolonged suspension of the proceeding in such high-profile cases always benefited the accused party as prosecution witnesses might change their residences or go underground.

Also, it is hard for a witness to remember the exact evidence for years while it is also a difficult task for the investigating officers to maintain the case property, police files and stay in touch with their witnesses, they added.

The SIU said that the suspected militants were arrested after a shoot-out on Hawkesbay Road on Jan 23, 2010 and claimed that they had confessed to have carried out the attacks on the Muharram processions.

Subsequently, they were chargesheeted under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and their cases were sent to the ATC-III for trial and the court had supplied copies of documents to the suspects under Section 265-C of the criminal procedure code. However, they escaped before their indictment.

Murtaza and Saqib were booked for killing over 45 people and wounding about 100 others in the bomb attack on the main Ashura procession on Dec 28, 2009.

The duo were also chargesheeted in the Paposh Nagar blast that took place on Dec 26, 2009 (8th of Muharram) when a Muharram procession was passing by and it left 13 people wounded.

Murad Shah along with his absconding accomplices Haider, Hasnain and Sajid was chargesheeted in a case pertaining to a low-intensity blast that targeted a 9th of Muharram procession in Qasba Colony on Dec 27, 2009.

Besides, the four suspects were also booked in a case registered under Sections 4/5 of the Explosive Substance Act, 1908 read with Section 7 (punishment for acts of terrorism) of the ATA at the Sir Syed police station, as the police claimed to have recovered explosive material on a lead provided by them.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2019