KARACHI, Aug 13: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed as withdrawn a petition for appeal against the acquittal of 18 MQM leaders and activists by the Sindh High Court in the Major Kalim case.

Another criminal petition for leave to appeal against the 1998 SHC judgment moved by complainant Maj Kalimuddin himself, which mentioned Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain as a respondent, was dismissed for non-prosecution as neither the petitioner nor his counsel was present.

The petitions came up before a three-member SC bench comprising Justices Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi, Hamid Ali Mirza and Ghulam Rabbani. Officiating Advocate-General Masood A. Noorani and Additional Advocate-General Dr Qazi Khalid Ali appeared for the prosecution and requested the withdrawal of the state appeal. The request was allowed and the petition dismissed.

The 18 respondents in the state appeal were Dr Imran Farooq, Saleemul Haq alias Saleem Shahzad, Muhammad Ashfaque Chief, Dr Safdar Baqari, Javed Kazmi, Haji Jalal Khan, Rehan Zaidi, Asghar Chacha, Sajid Azad, Arshad Naeem, Ashraf Zaidi, Ismail Qureshi alias Sitara, Aftab Ahmed Sabziwala, Ayub Shah Medical Storewala, Yusuf Bakerywala, Nadeem Ayubi, Sarfaraz and Ikram. Maj Kalim’s petition mentioned Mr Hussain’s name also.

The prosecution case, briefly stated, was that intelligence officer Maj Kalim went to Landhi in a jeep at 9.20pm on June 20, 1991, along with his three subordinates on a fact-finding mission. They picked up Abdul Rashid to guide them but a group of 15 to 20 armed boys surrounded their jeep and forced them to come out despite disclosure of their identity. They beat them up and took them to a building known as ‘white house’, where the major and his subordinates were disarmed, tortured and given electric shocks. The police arrived at the scene and got them freed.

A special court for suppression of terrorist activities convicted Ashfaque Chief, Javed Kazmi and Haji Jalal in 1994 and sentenced them to a total of 30 years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs20,000 each under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and the Enforcement of Hudood Ordinance. All other accused, including Altaf Hussain, were declared absconders and sentenced to 27 years jail and a fine of Rs30,000 each in absentia.

The convicts challenged their conviction and sentences before the Sindh High Court. The appeal was heard by a division bench, which found the case as one ‘of almost no legal evidence’. Relying on the provisions of the Suppression of Terrorist Activities Act, 1976, the bench upheld trial in absentia and also the right of the absentee accused to file an appeal. Dealing with evidence, the bench observed that the eye-witnesses’ account did not inspire confidence. The evidence of the complainant was, in particular, full of contradictions.

The complainant, the bench noted, went to the extent of disowning his FIR in material respects to justify his ‘afterthoughts’. He could have complained against the SHO concerned or moved a direct complaint if he was not satisfied with the FIR.

In his deposition before the trial court, the complainant introduced an entirely different case to implicate the appellants in order to bring it into conformity with the supplementary challan submitted in February 1993.

Certain names had been included in the statement because they were mentioned by the main accused in their conversation. It was difficult for the bench to believe that a group of 15 or 20 boys could disarm four trained soldiers or that the SHO, after getting the victims freed, did not arrest their tormentors. Consequentially, all the accused were acquitted and three convicts who were serving terms were ordered released.

The appeals against the judgment were disposed of on Monday.