KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Friday acquitted 26 workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in 52 cases pertaining to possession of explosive material for want of evidence.
The 26 party activists along with senior leader Amir Khan were arrested by the Rangers during a pre-dawn raid at the MQM’s Nine Zero headquarters on March 11, 2015 and subsequently police had registered 52 cases against them.
On Friday, the ATC-XVI judge, who conducted the trial in the judicial complex inside the central prison, pronounced his verdicts reserved on April 5.
The court acquitted the 26 workers in all 52 cases relating to possession of explosives.
It, however, convicted 13 of the 26 workers in cases pertaining to possession of unlicensed weapons. The same court acquitted 12 workers in similar cases, while the 26th accused, Munawwar Shah, was exonerated from both the charges ie possession of explosives as well as illicit weapons.
Those found guilty of possessing illicit arms and ammunition recovered from the Khursheed Memorial Hall near Nine Zero include accused Faisal Mehmood alias Mota, Ubaid alias K2, M. Abid, Shabbir Ahmed alias Farhan Mullah, Amir Ali alias Sarphata, M. Javed, M. Amir alias Totla, M. Hassan, Imtiaz Hussain, Syed Kazim Raza Rizvi, Abdul Qadir, Nadeem Ahmed and M. Shakil alias Banarsi.
13 of the 26 workers held in a 2015 raid on Nine Zero are convicted of possessing illicit weapons
Accused Faisal Mota was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment and ordered to pay Rs50,000 fine or undergo an additional six-month imprisonment on default.
The court handed down eight-year imprisonment each to three accused Ubaid alias K2, Shabbir Ahmed and M. Abid. Each convict was ordered to pay Rs30,000 fine or face three-month additional imprisonment on default.
The court handed down six-year imprisonment to remaining nine and each of them were also ordered to pay Rs10,000 fine or face two-month additional imprisonment on default.
In their final arguments, special public prosecutors Rana Khalid Hussain, Mushtaq Ahmed Jahangiri, Chaudhry Mehmood Anwar and Mohammad Tariq submitted that the accused were arrested on the spot by the Rangers and ‘avon’ bombs, weapons and ammunition were recovered from them.
They further submitted that all the accused persons were terrorists involved in targeted killings and other heinous crimes, adding that they all belonged to the militant wing of the MQM.
The prosecutors said that the court might also take cognizance against licence-holders of the weapons recovered from the possession of the accused or from Khursheed Memorial Hall under Section 24 of the Sindh Arms Act, 2013.
On the other hand, the accused persons denied the allegations of the prosecution and pleaded innocence in their statements recorded under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
Defence counsel Mushtaq Ahmed, Mohammad Jiwani, Raja Ali Wahid, Abid Zaman, Imran Meo and others produced eight witnesses in the defence of the accused persons.
The defence witnesses including MQM leaders Dr Farooq Sattar, Iqbal Mohammad Ali Khan, Kunwar Khalid Younus and TV reporter Afzal Pervaiz testified that the weapons allegedly recovered from the accused persons in fact belonged to them and they produced in court the licences issued in their names.
Other defence witnesses including MQM leaders Muqeem Alam, Akhter Iqbal, Abdul Haseeb, Farhat Khan and Mohammad Iqbal also produced licences issued in their names in respect of the weapons shown to have been recovered from the accused persons.
The MQM leaders testified that the weapons were kept by them at the Khursheed Memorial Hall, the secretariat of the MQM, for security purpose.
The defence counsel argued that Section 32 of the Sindh Arms Act 2013 was not applicable in the present cases since control and occupation of the accused over the Khursheed Memorial Hall had not been established, adding that the weapons shown recovered were duly licensed in the name of parliamentarians and other responsible leaders of the MQM.
Over 50 cases were registered under relevant sections of the law at the Azizabad police station.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2021