KARACHI: Trials in dozens of cases related to the May 12, 2007 violent riots in the metropolis have remained undecided after a lapse of 15 years as the prosecution ‘intentionally’ ignores crucial forensic evidence, it has emerged.

Former Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar, Umair Siddiqui, Mohammad Nasir and Nasir Zia are among scores of suspects booked and charged with rioting, arson and terrorism in around 65 identical cases lodged at different police stations across the city during the May 12 mayhem.

Around 50 people were killed and over 100 wounded in sporadic armed attacks on rallies organised by members of political parties and legal fraternity to welcome the then deposed chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, to Karachi ahead of a gathering of lawyers.

Justice Chaudhry was forced to fly back to Islamabad after having been restricted to the airport for nine hours.

Abundant evidence available in media coverage, says senior lawyer

MQM’s Wasim Akhtar was adviser to the Sindh chief minister on home affairs at that time.

Judicial and prosecution sources told Dawn that there were around 65 cases related to murder, arson, rioting and terrorism registered by the police nominating MQM leaders, activists besides many unknown suspects.

In one case, the police had nominated leaders of the Awami National Party and Jamaat-i-Islami in some of the cases, they added.

Cases closed and re-opened

“Initially, members of the legal fraternity as well as political activists had lodged some 200 cases accusing each other of causing the mayhem. But, the police later closed all those cases by declaring them ‘A’ class”, the judicial and prosecution officials told the Dawn requesting anonymity.

‘A’ class means the proceedings were frozen with the approval of the relevant courts, as the investigating officer declared the nominated suspects ‘untraceable’.

However, on May 12, 2018, the then chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar directed the Sindh High Court to decide all the cases related to the May 12 mayhem within three months.

Subsequently, the provincial authorities had submitted a report with the high court, stating that there were 65 such cases pending trial before different courts.

Judicial commission never functioned

The high court had also directed the provincial government to set up a judicial commission to ask the trial courts to explain their failure to dispose of these cases despite the passage of 11 years and fix responsibility.

The high court had further ordered that the proposed judicial commission would complete its probe within three months, subject to any extension, if required, granted by the high court.

However, the sources said that the commission was not set up by the then Pakistan Peoples Party-led provincial government, thus the move to reopen the cases and punish perpetrators of the bloodbath did not materialise.

Judicial and prosecution sources told the Dawn that the antiterrorism courts had framed the charges against former Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar, Umair Siddiqui, Mohammad Nasir and Nasir Zia as well as 20 other suspects booked in six cases.

A counsel representing the MQM leaders and activists named in these cases said that some 20 cases were currently at the stage of recording evidence.

Judicial sources said that trials in the rest of the cases had not concluded yet.

“In only one case, an antiterrorism court recently acquitted alleged hitman, Muhammad Raees alias Mama, Umair Siddiqui and Rizwan alias Chapati,” an MQM lawyer said.

Prosecution ignores crucial evidence

Judicial sources also blamed the prosecution for not collecting or intentionally ignoring crucial forensic evidence in the cases.

“On May 12, private TV channels showed live coverage of violence and arson almost whole the day, but law enforcement and prosecution authorities did not collect such evidence from the media for the reasons best known to them,” added the sources.

Senior lawyer Shaukat Hayat, who specialises in criminal trials, said that under relevant provisions of Article 164 of the Qanoon-i-Shahadat, every piece of forensic evidence was admissible in the court of law.

“The forensic evidence includes the video footages, photographs, call data record (CDR) and geo-fencing of suspect(s)’ mobile phones. Such an evidence can lead to conviction even in the absence of any circumstantial, medical or ocular evidence,” he opined.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2022

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