JIT debate: an act of deliberate distraction?

Updated 11 Jul 2020

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The Uzair Baloch JIT report is a tale of horrific bloody mayhem, criminal politicians and state officials, sedition and corrupt and extortionist accumulation of wealth. — Hussain Afzal/File
The Uzair Baloch JIT report is a tale of horrific bloody mayhem, criminal politicians and state officials, sedition and corrupt and extortionist accumulation of wealth. — Hussain Afzal/File

THE joint investigation team (JIT) reports regarding the interrogation of Uzair Baloch and Dr Nisar Morai have become a bone of contention between a federal minister and the Sindh government.

But this misleading debate has led to further confusion and deliberate distraction. None of the burning questions have been addressed: which JIT report regarding Uzair Baloch is genuine: the one containing allegations against the PPP leadership, as disclosed by the federal minister, or the JIT report without such allegations made public by the Sindh government?

Can people be punished on the basis of these JIT reports? Will justice and reform result from these reports?

The JIT report on the Baldia factory fire case is an investigation report explaining the cause of the fire by referring to oral and documentary evidence. But the reports regarding Uzair Baloch and Dr Nisar Morai are quite different.

The JIT reports on Uzair Baloch and Dr Nisar Morai are primarily interrogation reports about the disclosures and confessions made by the two before the joint investigation teams of police and intelligence officials.

In other words, the Uzair and Dr Nisar Morai reports contain no independent verification or independent evidence of the disclosures and confessions made in it.

It is precisely for this reason that the final recommendations of the JIT reports on Uzair and Dr Nasir are quite basic: investigations should be conducted and criminal proceedings should be initiated regarding these disclosures and confessions. Therefore, even though the Uzair Baloch JIT report is a tale of horrific bloody mayhem, criminal politicians and state officials, sedition and corrupt and extortionist accumulation of wealth and Dr Nisar JIT report is a lesser tale of murder, corrupt governance and extortion, the fact remains that these reports are only allegations and assertions.

But what about the two mysterious reports regarding Uzair Baloch? Both the first JIT report made public by the Sindh government and the second JIT report disclosed by a federal minister appear to be genuine, but are rather two parts or two reports arising from the same interrogations.

As the second report or second part of the JIT interrogations itself explains this mystery: “The JIT report comprises two parts. First part (duly signed by the chairman and all members of the JIT and submitted to Home Department as per procedure in vogue) primarily deals with hardcore criminal activities carried out by the accused and his accomplices whereas second part of the JIT deals with criminal activities involving political figures…however, due to obvious implications and need to be further probed Part II is being kept confidential”.

Both these JIT reports do not substantively contradict or conflict with each other, but rather the second report supplements the first by adding the names of politicians and other state officials to such allegations already contained in the first JIT report as well as by adding further allegations.

But there are also two key differences between the two reports. Firstly, the second report has only been signed by four out of the seven members of the JIT excluding the SSP heading the JIT whereas the first JIT report has been signed by all seven members of the JIT.

Second, the first report has been officially submitted, but the second has been kept confidential.

Legal truth

A JIT is formed under Section 19 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. It must have at least five members and is headed by a senior police officer and ultimately, the JIT reports need to be submitted to the court.

But the second report or second part of the JIT report regarding Uzair Baloch, which makes allegations against the PPP leadership, did not contain these five mandatory signatures and was kept confidential. Therefore, under the law, this second JIT report will be considered as a defective report. Second, a JIT report is not evidence unless it is supported by admissible material and evidence and therefore, it cannot by itself lead to a proof of guilt or punishment of anyone.

Third, under Pakistani law, any disclosure or confession recorded before police or a JIT is inadmissible and cannot be the basis of any criminal conviction of either the confessing person or any other person.

Fourth, it follows that the allegations in the JIT reports regarding Uzair Baloch and Dr Nisar require independent evidence and any confessions made before the JIT also needs to be recorded before a judicial magistrate.

In other words, these reports are at best investigation tools and at worst, propaganda tools.

Reform and propaganda

Legal truth is not the only truth and any Karachiite who lived through the bloody strife between 2008 and 2013 cannot overlook the police confessions of Uzair Baloch about being involved in 198 killings.

There is a chilling non-legal truth in these confessions, which are not easy for any Karachiite to simply ignore. The murderous activities recorded in these JITs are a testimony to the failure of our political elite for its complicity, the military elite for its past inaction and the judicial elite for its sense of complacency in rectifying this injustice.

But despite the seriousness of these allegations, the current conflict between a federal minister and the Sindh government is an exercise in political propaganda and a distraction from the real challenges ahead.

Will these allegations ever be investigated? Will justice ever be provided to the victims? Can these murderous times return to Karachi? Sadly, these concerns will not be addressed.

These JIT reports will be abused for political ends and then be forgotten and the MQMs and the Uzairs of the future will continue to be countered not by state reform but by state violence.

In fact, these JITs are the nation’s mirror image. It reproaches the ruling elite, which feels it is answerable to nobody for its cruel and unjust actions.

It is reflective of the general public too which feels helpless in confronting this cruel injustice.

The writer is a lawyer

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2020