PESHAWAR: An anti-terrorism court on Thursday declined to indict social activist Gulalai Ismail and her parents for the financing of terrorist organisations due to the unavailability of evidence.

The court pronounced that the charge couldn’t be framed against the accused as the prosecution didn’t produce any evidence, so they were exonerated from the charge under the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The counter-terrorism department (CTD) had registered an FIR on July 6, 2019, under Section 11-N of the Anti-Terrorism Act charging Gulalai Ismail, her father, Prof Mohammad Ismail, who is also a known activist, and her mother, Uzlifat, with being sympathisers of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement.

Complainant CTD inspector Muhammad Ilyas alleged that Gulalai Ismail was the chairperson of an organisation, Aware Girls, and she, in the garb of that organisation, had been working for anti-state elements besides financing terrorist organisations.

He had added that the social activist had also opened bank accounts in the name of Prof Ismail and her mother for terror financing.

Gulalai Ismail had gone into hiding in May last year when a case was registered against her in Islamabad for allegedly defaming state institutions and inciting violence through a speech delivered in a demonstration against the sexual abuse and killing of a minor girl. She emerged in the US in Sept 2019.

Exonerates three from charge over unavailability of evidence

Fazal Ilahi, lawyer for the defendants, said his clients could not be indicted as the prosecution couldn’t produce any evidence against them.

He said under Section 265-D of CrPC, the court could frame the charge against an accused after perusing records and all other documents and statements filed by the prosecution and if the court was of the opinion that there was ground for proceeding with the trial of the accused.

The lawyer said when records were examined, there was no evidence available with the prosecution to support the charges leveled against the defendants.

He added that as there was no evidence, the court couldn’t indict defendants and they should be exonerated from the charge.

The court when inquired from the investigation officer and the state prosecutor about any evidence with them, they contended that they had certain speeches of Gulalai Ismail, which amounted to hate speech and were against the state.

On the court’s orders, they produced some of her speeches one of which she had delivered while addressing a protest demonstration against sexual abuse and killing of Fareshta in Islamabad, whereas in another speech she was demanding of the government to provide protection to people in former tribal agencies.

Following viewing the speeches the court observed that the defendant was demanding of state to provide protection to people as well as to punish perpetrators of killing of a minor girl.

Mr Ilahi said the right of free speech could not be curtailed on such flimsy grounds. He pointed out that in the US entire country had been protesting against the killing of George Floyd but no cases of terrorism were registered against protesters.

He said the prosecution also failed to establish any linkage between his clients and any terrorist or proscribed organisation.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2020