KARACHI: An antiterrorism court has accepted an ‘A’ class investigation report and acquitted three clerics booked for allegedly attacking a woman police officer and others, inciting violence and violating the ban on congregational Friday prayers.

Haqqani Jamia Masjid prayer leader Abdul Rehman and mosque committee members Maulana Qavi Khan and Maulana Zareen Khan along with 20 to 25 others had been booked for allegedly inciting violence, attacking police and violating the ban on religious congregations imposed by the Sindh government to control the spread of coronavirus.

Sharafat Khan, female SHO of the Pirabad police station, intelligence officer Hayat Gul and Constable Abdul Salam, were reportedly injured by an enraged mob on April 10.

Since April 14 the three suspects are on interim pre-arrest bail obtained against a surety bond of Rs50,000 each to avoid their arrest in the present case.

When the matter came up before the ATC-II judge, the investigating officer filed a final investigation report recommending disposal of the case in ‘A’ class.

‘A’ class reports pertain to cases in which accused are either unknown or untraceable.

In the report, IO Inspector Sarfaraz Ali Khawaja mentioned that during the course of investigation efforts were made to arrest the suspects, but the three nominated clerics obtained pre-arrest bail from court.

He added that in compliance with the directives of the court statements of four defence witnesses — Hazrat Hasan, Rustam Khan, Noorul Haque and Inayatullah — were recorded under Section 161 of the criminal procedure code, who said that the nominated clerics of the mosque’s administration committee made an announcement from the mosque, asking people to offer Friday prayers at their homes, but people forcibly entered the mosque from its back door.

The report further mentioned that many people were present inside the mosque during the sermon when female SHO Khan entered the courtyard and announced from the mosque’s loudspeaker asking worshipers to offer prayers at their homes.

Meanwhile, glasses of the female officer broke and she received injuries to her nose during a melee, the report quoted the witnesses, adding that the clerics remained inside the mosque and were not seen fighting with anyone nor did they misbehave with any police official.

The IO mentioned that in the light of circumstances and statements of impartial witnesses no evidence was available to establish any cognizable offence committed by the clerics. Therefore, the charge sheet in A class may be accepted by the court, he requested.

The state prosecutor, Ali Raza Abbasi, also supported the A-class report and requested the judge to accept the same.

He further contended that primarily the allegation pertained to violation of lockdown and did not fell within the ambit of Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 since no act of terrorism took place.

The judge accepted the A-class report and acquitted them in the present case, said the prosecutor.

In the bail pleas, defence counsel Mushtaq Jahangiri had argued that the clerics had nothing to do with the alleged offence of violating the government ban since the prayer leader and mosque administrative committee members were permitted to offer prayers in the mosque as per standard operating procedure agreed between the government and ulema.

The counsel claimed that the police falsely booked the applicants in the present case on charges of violating the lockdown as well as inciting violence and assault on police officials.

They apprehended their arrest and pleaded to grant them pre-arrest bail so that they could join the investigation.

According to the contents of the FIR, on receiving information about presence of several people to offer prayers at the Haqqani Jamia Masjid, the Pirabad SHO along with two policemen reached the place and tried to persuade the mosque administration that violation of the lockdown would result in the spread of the coronavirus.

The complainant, Sub-Inspector Mohammad Ashraf Arain, stated that the prayer leader and the administrative committee’s president and secretary along with 20 to 25 other people attacked the police officers and resorted to violence.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2020