KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Wednesday exonerated senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Amir Khan and two others from the charges of harbouring suspected militants for lack of evidence.

MQM-P leader Khan, former security in-charge Minhaj Qazi and Raees alias Mama were charged with sheltering wanted criminals at the party`s Azizabad headquarter ‘Nine Zero’ some seven years ago. The party’s headquarter in Azizabad was sealed after a raid by law-enforcement agencies.

On Wednesday, the matter came up before the ATC-VII judge, who conducted the trial at the judicial complex inside the Karachi Central Prison, for pronouncement of the verdict reserved earlier after recording evidence and final arguments from both sides. Amir Khan, who had been on bail, appeared in court while Raees Mama and Qazi were brought from prison.

The judge observed that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove the charges against the suspects.

MQM leader and 25 other party activists were booked in 2015 raid on ‘Nine Zero’ headquarter

The judge cancelled bail of Amir Khan. He also directed the prison authorities to release Raees Mama and Qazi forthwith, if their custody was not required. However, they were not set free since they were facing several other criminal cases.

During the trial, the prosecution examined six witnesses, including two investigating officers (IOs) of the case -- Inspector Mohsin Zaidi and Inspector Rashid Hussain -- complainant Rangers DSR Riaz and three policemen.

The Sindh Rangers had detained the accused along with several others during a predawn raid on and around the party’s headquarter on March 11, 2015.

Rangers’ special public prosecutor Rana Khalid argued that the paramilitary force had arrested Amir Khan and 26 others, including Faisal Mehmood alias Mota, who was sentenced to death in absentia in the journalist Wali Babar murder case, during the raid.

He said that the MQM leader along with five others had allegedly provided shelter to criminals, whom they had been using for terrorist activities in the city. A joint investigation team recommended registration of a case against the MQM leader, Amir Khan, he added.

The prosecutor further argued that there was sufficient evidence to establish that Amir Khan used to give directives to Raees Mama, Qazi and three absconding suspects Shahzad Mullah, Imran Ijaz Niazi and Naeem alias Mulla to commit crimes, including acts of terrorism.

The defence counsel Shaukat Hayat contended that Amir Khan was a member of MQM’s Rabita Committee at the time of his arrest. The MQM was a registered political party and its ‘Nine Zero’ headquarter was meant for political activities where no criminal was sheltered. Secondly, he contended, the prosecution failed to produce evidence, including FIRs, in which his client was shown to have issued directives to criminals for committing criminal acts.

Defence counsel Mushtaq Ahmed contended that Raees Mama was taken into custody on March 26, 2018 from Karachi airport upon his deportation from Malaysia purportedly with the help of the Interpol, and later he was detained in the Karachi central prison, from where the investigating officer had arrested him in the present case.

He further argued that Minhaj Qazi was shown arrested in the present case in 2016 from Mehboodabad police station, where he was being grilled in connection with the 1997 Shahid Hamid murder case. He argued that the prosecution failed to establish that Amir Khan had ever issued any directives to both the accused for committing any act of terrorism or other crime. The court was pleaded to acquit them of the false and fabricated charges leveled against them by the prosecution.

Three absconding suspects Shahzad Mulla, Imran Ijaz Niazi and Naeem alias Mulla have already been declared proclaimed offenders in the case by the court.

A case was registered under Sections 11-V (directing terrorist activities), 21-J (harbouring any person who committed an offence under this act) and 7 (punishment for act of terrorism) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 on a complaint of a Rangers` official at the Azizabad police station.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2022

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