KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence of two brothers and overturned the death penalty of a co-accused in the PIDC bomb blast case.
The two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha observed that the judicial confessions of both brothers, Mangla Khan and Aziz Khan, were made voluntarily and two eyewitnesses had also identified them for parking a car at the crime site in which the bomb was planted.
However, it noted that the case of co-accused Abdul Hameed Bugti was on a different footing since there was no other corroborative evidence to support the statement of an eyewitness against him.
An anti-terrorism court had sentenced Mangla Khan and Aziz Khan to death in May 2007 for masterminding and carrying out a bomb blast outside the PIDC building in November 2005 that had left four people dead and 21 others wounded. The ATC had also handed down multiple terms, including life term, to both convicts.
Hameed Bugti was arrested a month after the conviction of the two brothers and after holding his trial separately, the trial court had sentenced him also to death in June 2014 in the same case. The appellants through their lawyers challenged the trial court judgements before the SHC and after hearing both sides and examining the record and proceedings of the case, the bench pronounced its order.
Issues notices in Dr Aafia Siddiqui case
The bench observed that there were two key evidences against the appellant brothers, their confessional statements before a judicial magistrate and the evidence of two eyewitnesses who rightly identified them.
It further said that the irregularities in recording confessions were only minor in nature and had no bearing on the voluntariness and truthfulness of the confessions and the bench relied on both retracted judicial confessions to the extent that they parked the car with a bomb outside the PIDC building shortly before it exploded.
The bench in its judgement noted that two eyewitnesses — a traffic policeman and a taxi driver — had seen both appellants parking the car in question and getting off it and rightly picked them out during an identification parade before the magistrate as well as before the trial court and their presence at the crime site when the incident took place was not challenged by the defence side. The appellants in their defence plea contended that they were picked up by the law enforcement agencies in Hyderabad, but did not produce any witness or application to any authority to support this line of defence while their claim that they did not understand Urdu was also specifically denied by the judicial magistrate, it added.
The bench said that the only evidence against Hameed Bugti was the statement of an eyewitness (traffic policeman) as he had identified the appellant sitting in a car near the crime scene before the bomb exploded. “In the absence of any other significant corroborative evidence, we do not consider that it is safe to convict the appellant of the charge based on this evidence alone and thus by extending the benefit of the doubt to the appellant, we whereby acquit him from the charge as there seem to be doubts about his involvement in the car bombing outside PIDC House,” it said.
The judgement further said that one of the convicted brothers had named Hameed Bugti in his confessional statement, but the same could not be used against the co-accused as evidence without strong unimpeachable corroborative evidence, adding that the magistrate who recorded the confessions of the brothers also did not appear before the ATC to record his evidence during the trial of the appellant in question and thus the appellant did not get the opportunity to cross-examine him.
Earlier, representing the appellants Advocate Shaikh Jawaid Mir argued that the confessions of the two appellants and the identification parades had no legal weight since there were irregularities and the same were not done in accordance with the law.
Additional prosecutor general Saleem Akhtar Buriro supported the judgements of the trial court and argued that the confessions were made voluntarily and eyewitnesses had identified the appellants and deposed against them before the magistrate as well as the trial court. According to the prosecution, on Nov 15, 2005 a powerful blast ripped through the ground floor of the PIDC House, a multi-storied building also housing the offices of the Pakistan Petroleum Limited, that left four private security guards dead and 21 others wounded. Initially, the two brothers were arrested in Gulshan-i-Iqbal on a tip-off and they confessed to having carried out the bomb blast on the instruction of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti to ‘punish’ the PPL for “not recruiting the local youth of Balochistan,” it said. The grandson of the late Akbar Bugti, Brahamdagh, and a nephew of the slain Baloch leader Abdul Majeed Bugti and others were declared proclaimed offenders in the case.
Dr Aafia Siddiqui case
The Sindh High Court has issued notices to the federal authorities on a petition seeking directives to make efforts for the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and other prisoners confined to overseas prisons.
The two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar issued notices to the secretaries of foreign affairs, interior and human rights as well as the deputy attorney general to file comments by April 16.
Fauzia Siddiqui, a sister of the detainee, through her lawyer Irfan Aziz moved the SHC and submitted that Dr Aafia was currently confined to Carswell Prison Texas, USA.
The counsel argued that according to the international media, there were reports of an outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the American prisons and the petitioner sent a letter to the secretary of foreign affairs in which she complained that she had had no telephone contact with her detained sister for the last three years.
Referring to the Carswell Prison manual, the petitioner further submitted that prisoners were allowed 300 minutes in phone and video calls and four hours visits per week, but Dr Aafia had been denied all those rights.
The lawyer further contended that due to the pandemic, various prisoners of different countries had been released by the US government, and thereafter notices may be issued to the federal authorities concerned (respondents) to come up with a reply that what efforts had been made by them to get the Pakistani prisoners released from the prisons of other countries.
He further sought directive for the respondents to make arrangements for telephonic contact of Dr Aafia with her family members and to call a report about her health from the US consulate.
Dr Aafia was convicted by a US court in 2010 on multiple charges.
Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2020