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ISLAMABAD, Aug 17: In view of the mess that followed the military operation against Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, the Supreme Court on Friday asked Interior Secretary Kamal Shah to handle the case.

A four-member bench, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan, Justice Faqir Mohammad Khokhar and Justice M. Javed Buttar, was not happy over the destruction of evidence by pulling down Jamia Hafsa.

The delay in disposal of cases against students arrested from the seminary during the operation also annoyed the court when it was told that their cases had been put off till September because Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC) Judge Sakhi Mohammad Kahut had proceeded on summer vacations till August 26.

The bench directed the government to appoint a special ATC judge for disposal of cases by holding day-to-day hearing.

Acting on a suo motu notice, the apex court took up the extra-judicial killings of innocent people at the Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa compound. Performance of the Islamabad administration attracted the reprimand of the court for slow pace.

At present 61 students are in custody, of them 39 are booked in bailable offences. The CJ directed immediate release of 22 innocent people as recommended by a joint investigation team.

National Crisis Management Cell Director-General Brig (retd) Javed Iqbal Cheema told the court that 28 DNA tests had not been confirmed. At this, the CJ pointed out that Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali had said in a statement that 30 bodies remained unidentified.

“You are spoiling the case by making contradictory submissions. Everybody claims to be a responsible officer, but actually he knows nothing,” the CJ observed and ordered the interior secretary to appear on Aug 28.

The deputy commissioner was also warned of being prosecuted and put behind bars if it was proved that the Jamia Hafsa building had been demolished to remove evidence.

The Chief Justice said: “You have also removed debris of the building secretly and desecrated the Holy Quran. Pages from the Quran were recovered from the debris. You cannot bear the wrath of God even for desecrating a single verse, but you are only concerned with saving your post.”

The Lal Masjid case was a complete mess because of inefficiency of the officials, the CJ said.

The bench rejected a request by the DC to produce some record in camera. “A person claims that his student son was of 20 years of age, but you hand him over a 40-year-old man. Is this your way of consoling the affected persons,” the CJ asked.

When a member of the legal aid committee reiterated its demand for a judicial inquiry into the Lal Masjid action, the CJ recalled that he had conducted three or four judicial inquiries in his entire service and he had come to know that the findings were always held in abeyance.

The court ordered the recovery of one Iftikhar in a week. He was arrested from the Lal Masjid area where he had gone to look for his son Nadeem Iftikhar.

One Akthar Azim submitted that his daughters Nargis Zohra and Sidratul Muntaha had surrendered and had been missing since then. The DC told the court that the girls did not want to live with their father. The bench directed the DC to produce the girls before a sessions judge.