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Supporters of Malik Ishaq who sits in a vehicle, a leader of the banned Sunni Muslim extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, receive their leader upon his release outside a jail in Lahore, Pakistan on Thursday, July 14, 2011. –AP Photo

We are ready to lay down lives (jaan bhee hazir hai) for the honour of the companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq said after he was freed from jail amid Kalashnikov-wielding supporters on a Land Cruiser motorcade. He did not specify whose lives he was talking about. But the Shia know.

The influential co-founder of a Sipah-e-Sahaba breakaway group now linked with al Qaeda and the Taliban received a stipend from the Punjab government while he was in jail, and like other key terror suspects, was allowed to use a mobile phone.

Malik Ishaq had told an Urdu daily in October 1997 that he was involved in the killing of 102 people. He was arrested the same year, and eventually charged with 70 of those murders in 44 different cases, including the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009. Last week, the Supreme Court released him because of “lack of evidence”.

Among those who fear the consequences is Fida Hussain Ghalvi, a key witness in a case in which Ishaq was accused of killing 12 members of a Shia family during a Majlis in 1997. When Ghalvi and three other men identified Ishaq, he told them in front of a judge that “dead men can’t talk”. Five witnesses and three of their relatives were killed during the trial. Ishaq was acquitted because of “lack of evidence”.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. A more remarkable case involving the anti-Shia leader from southern Punjab was the bombing of an Iranian culture centre in Multan, also in 1997. Eight people were killed. When investigating officer Ijaz Shafi persuaded two witnesses to appear in court, his car was sprayed with 13 bullets. Anti-Terrorism Court judge Bashir Ahmed Bhatti convicted Ishaq but the Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2006 because of “lack of evidence”.

In March 2007, the same judge, scheduled to hear another case against Malik Ishaq, was on his way to the court when a remote-controlled bicycle bomb exploded near his car, killing his driver and two policemen. Ishaq was charged with planning the bombing. Two years later, the prosecution’s witnesses suddenly turned hostile. Ishaq was acquitted in April 2009, because of “lack of evidence”.

In that context, it is very surprising that one of the Supreme Court judges who released Malik Ishaq on bail last week scolded the prosecution and said the case was weak. The same judge, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, was part of a Lahore Hight Court bench that had asked the police to close down cases of hate speech and incitement to violence, against Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed. The bench would simply not accept that Jamaatud Dawa was another name for Lashkar-e-Taiba, because the new name was not present on a certain list.

Malik Ishaq praised the Supreme Court after his release and said justice had been done. And that is ironic. Why do these people refer to the modern secular notions of law and justice when they do not believe in them? Because that is what gives them a decisive advantage. They have access to multiple epistemic devices. They can identify and exploit weak spots in our legal structure from outside, while simultaneously carrying out practices that are only justified in their own context. And that is why they are winning.

The state and its judiciary, on the other hand, insist on upholding the singular letter of law. They believe that is justice. But justice must question itself. Why should we abide by laws when dealing with people who simply do not believe in those laws? Why should we allow them the privileges of our legal system when they are fighting to replace it with their own?

Harris Bin Munawar is a media and culture critic and a news editor at The Friday Times.

Comments (65) Closed

sarim Jul 19, 2011 12:52pm
excellent article
F Khan Jul 19, 2011 12:58pm
The hard reality is that our judicial system is simply inadequate and unsuitable to deal with terrorists. How many individual judges can you think of who will sentence a terrorist after receiving a death threat to himself or his family members or worse? We need multijudge tribunals of members whose identities must be secret. In a war justice is meted out by military tribunals and we are in a war against terrorists so such bodies must be considered. To expect the civilian courts to deal with terrorists is a hopeless.
Muhammad Saqib Ilyas Jul 19, 2011 01:10pm
"Why should we abide by laws when dealing with people who simply do not believe in those laws?" OK. Are you ready to confront the folks who bang on the human rights drums concerning the punishment of criminals? Lawless extra-judicial vigilante justice, which you seem to propose with the above sentence, makes sense if the legal system does not work. If you do claim to be civilized and law abiding and all, on the other hand, then such statements place you in the same social status as the criminals that you criticized. Right or wrong, they have similar sentiments, don't they?: "These guys are unlike us, therefore, they are wrong, let's kill them." By lifting your pen, you pretend to be polite. Don't disclose your inner animal like this.
Muhammad Saqib Ilyas Jul 19, 2011 01:17pm
Furthermore, note the bias in your writing. The exploitation of loopholes in the legal system is not limited to "these people." They get away with it because the lawyers are aware of the loopholes in the system and are willing to exploit those for them, or anyone else. How many innocent people are rotting in jail on false charges due to exploitation of similar loopholes? How many "not-them" criminals walk the street due to similar loopholes? Raise your voice against everyone, and not just one group. Better yet, raise your voice against lousy prosecution and any possible flaws in the legal system.
Muhammad Saqib Ilyas Jul 19, 2011 01:18pm
Shan Rizvi Jul 19, 2011 01:40pm
That is just a ridiculous piece of writing. If the judicial system is inadequate to deal with terrorists, the solution is to fix it and NOT to sideline the justice system! When will our people stop being lazy and looking for shortcuts? There are no shortcuts. It is important to examine whether there is really a lack of evidence; if not, the judges need to be questioned. If there is a lack of evidence, then we need to ensure that our evidence gathering is sufficient. If the ordeal doesn't bother you enough to get off your hot seat and actually do something about it, you do NOT have the right to sit in a drawing room and say "lack of evidence? again? haye; bas maar do sab ko aise he!".
Umer Jatt Jul 19, 2011 01:44pm
oday at 1:43 pm (1 second ago) //Why should we abide by laws when dealing with people who simply do not believe in those laws? Why should we allow them the privileges of our legal system when they are fighting to replace it with their own?// The answer could not be simpler, because we advocate a society in which rule of law comes first what higher moral ground would we be able to command over those who we despise if we were to use their logic to justify our actions? None!!! If they use suicide bombers, so should we? If they kill civilians it gives us the right to do so as well. IF they don’t believe in rule of law so mustn’t we! That’s laughable. I believe there is enough evidence out there to prosecute the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Malik Ishaq.
Mohsin Khan Jul 19, 2011 02:08pm
Why? Because we are not like them. We are law abiding. If this man is involved in so many killings and if indeed he is involved in these killings so frequently then a simple sting operation is enough to take him down. The problem is not our sincerety but it is our laziness and corruption. The rich and the powerful need a corrupt system, they need a poor judiciary. When we start prosecuting our police for not taking evidence properly, we will see the end to court cases collapsing.
Philatruth Jul 19, 2011 02:12pm
Really. Atleast it helps expose people with views like those that you have expressed so piquantly.
ZB Jul 19, 2011 02:27pm
Yes really!
Adeel O Jul 19, 2011 02:42pm
What a terrible, reactionary article. Instead of laying blame on a lousy prosecution, you're questioning the very foundation of justice - the assumption of innocence and the burden of proof. Do you know what happens when you don't have these things? The gitmos and military tribunals of the world, and we don't support those, do we?
lightning Jul 19, 2011 02:48pm
to me, u sound like all those political party supporters who will go on and on about how the judiciary has 'acquitted' mr so and so...when clearly any tom, dick n harry would know mr so and so is a hard core criminal....anyways, this kind of situation leaves us with no option but to lament over the failure of judiciary....
Aamir Jul 19, 2011 02:49pm
Saqib, The person who was charged with murder of 70 people, has 44 cases, who threatens witnesses in front of judges, threatens judges, has escaped the legal system. why Iftekhar chaudhary has never taken any Suo-Moto notice of any terrorist incident. Due to the judiciary long march he is also thankful to PML-N and now they are redeeming it. LeJ being terrorist is a fact everyone knows. No one has second opinion on this, police, lawyers, media, politicians. It just the way exploitation works in our country. LeJ has not only destroyed religious harmony but has also cause severe damage to security installations.
shahid khan Jul 19, 2011 03:02pm
I agree with you. Taliban promote their so called fame by quick justice which is even worse than military courts. But when it comes to trying a terrorist, flawed judicial system comes into play. But in this case the supreme court. This incident is a huge setback for peace process if any.
shahid khan Jul 19, 2011 03:03pm
good article. We need a revolution.
Yasir Jul 19, 2011 03:06pm
Agreed with Muhammad Saqib Ilyas. The argument “Why should we abide by laws when dealing with people who simply do not believe in those laws?” is absurd and self negating. Look like Harris is convening for extra judicial steps like extra judicial killing etc., but who will decide what to do when you will not abide by law (as you suggest) while dealing with these people? police? or anyone out there in the street. Or would you tell us what will be a scenario in which a judge will be thinking like you? how will he be giving verdict? would you explain?
salah Jul 19, 2011 03:12pm
Harris Bin Munawar, thank you for giving us insight into your personality.
saleem farooqi Jul 19, 2011 03:22pm
an eye opening article specially for those who claim to be "azad adlia"
Jey Jul 19, 2011 03:28pm
don't worry guys, "truth always triumphs"...
Yawar Jul 19, 2011 03:41pm
Clearly, the judge is afraid for his life, his familys lives and his relatives lives. How can there be a fair judicial system if the rule of law does not apply to everyone equally. But the real judgement is yet to come. Unfortunately, at that time it will be too late.
F khan Jul 19, 2011 03:49pm
If that man after killing so many innocents can be equitted on the basis of "lack of evidence" and AFTER he has been identified by people...i dont know who in the country is safe? Asif Khosa is known as a very good and unbiased judge...well if someone like this terrorist gets away from his court he has a lot to answer...
Faran Jul 19, 2011 04:08pm
guys - don't curse the writer please as his intention is not to force us to behave like these monsters in dealing with them.. i am sure he meant to fix the judicial and criminal system so that these terrorists are brought to justice ... Haris, thanks for the insightful article
Muhammad Saqib Ilyas Jul 19, 2011 04:46pm
@Aamir. Precisely my point. The crusade should be against the loopholes and black sheep in the legal system, prosecution etc. Criminals of all kinds are exploiting these loopholes, irrespective of their political, religious or some other form of orientation.
Muhammad Saqib Ilyas Jul 19, 2011 04:48pm
If you think about it, it is not a "judicial" system, as such. It is a "legal" system at best. The emphasis is not on justice and facts, but on what one can claim and prove.
Muhammad Saqib Ilyas Jul 19, 2011 04:48pm
OK. Just checking.
Syed Jul 19, 2011 05:15pm
Dead men can't talk. He was right when he said that in the court. Pakistanis are unfortunately a dead nation. Everyone knows this guy and his followers have killed hundreds if not thousands of minority shias yet he is OUT in public. There really is no justice. I don't know how many more people he will kill now that he is totally outside with his fellow killers. If there are any normal peace loving sunnis out there they have to really speak out against this and feel for their shia brothers. I just feel like these people are brainwashing the sunnis into becoming like them
masom Jul 19, 2011 05:32pm
this is really something more than shameful.People died because of this "aazad adlia"? whom to believe? our judicial system is so poor. After killing 112 people aadlia proved him innocent by saying "lack of evidence".I am running out of words but still i can say that God Bless so called azad adlia.
Mazhar Hussain Jul 19, 2011 05:54pm
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah Sahaba, talibans are criminals, cruel terrorists who tarnished name of Islam and Muslims, everyone knows this, A person who was involved in at least 44 cases, how judiciary can release him, is it that judicial system for which big movement was run against real leader of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf?
Hasnain Jul 19, 2011 06:17pm
No wonder, people instead of condemning the system and the criminals like Malik Ishaq are blaming the writer who committed a mistake of highlighting these. Where did it say in the article to go wild and become monsters ? The main point is to highlight the loopholes in the judicial system. As far as the politicians are concerned they won't put their hand on criminals like him because they need him to get the votes.
dave smith Jul 19, 2011 07:10pm
This is one consequence when religion becomes the center piece of the nation. Invariably there is a tussle over which flavor of the religion is correct and which are a threat and need to be eliminated. Due to the separation of Church and State, here in the US, we are able to keep religion out of state. It isn't easy as the believers push hard to enact laws that favor their flavor of religion.
yousuf Jul 19, 2011 07:34pm
Irresponsible article, I wonder if sensation and accusations are the criteria of journalism than why to blame west for there agenda and press control. Everyone agreed upon weaknesses of our justice system but that is true for every case not selective case. Its obvious that this article was written with anger and emotion thats why has no logic. Answer to our quest is a revolution first with in starting from repentense and than working to establish an ideologic muslim state.
nb Jul 19, 2011 07:40pm
In India, such men try to escape from prison van, then his friends attack police, then in resulting encounter he dies. Later some civil liberty case takes place in court against the policemen.
sam Jul 19, 2011 07:41pm
Pakistan/India culture is to lie and deni. In India because of a better democracy and a far more freear powerfull media there is more accountability.
aqabdulaziz Jul 19, 2011 07:43pm
Mohsin brother you are very right. There has to be strict adherence to laws. We have to start doing from now. In the past we did not do that at all. We gave support to all these groups hoping they would give us strategic depth in Afghan and Kashmir. The killed and maimed a lot and we celebrated on the streets. They learnt from our army and our govt. Now they have turned against us because now they are very powerful. We need more law, security, fairness and honesty going in our nation.
Dua Jul 19, 2011 08:34pm
Thought provoking article; thank you Harris for your bold presentation of the facts; our judicial system is rotten and directly responsible
Abbas Jul 19, 2011 08:57pm
Cool dude....revolution means sacrifice.. Is someone ready to go first and continue it especially when 1/10th of population thinks committing suicide and kiloling innocent is not Haram but instead you get hoors in heaven?
gaurav Jul 19, 2011 09:06pm
completely second your point. Rules are framed keeping society in mind...they are for all. leave the judging to Judges or to God. If you stop playing by rules then wat is the difference between you and them? The road to truth is always torturous but always straight !
Aimal Jul 19, 2011 09:20pm
@ F. Khan. Even an unbisaed and law-enforcing judge is helpless if the prosecution (read authorities) prepares such a high profile case on weak ground purposely overlooking whatever evidence were there. The nation must wake up to call a spade a spade.
Raza Jul 19, 2011 09:50pm
I really appreciate the writer who brought such an important issue to the notice of all masses. “Lack of evidence” who to be blamed for? How and when the victims will get justice? Perhaps no one can answer these questions. Our institutions just blame each other and the benefit of doubts always goes to the criminals. Law of the land, its enforcing agencies and judiciary, they all must be held responsible if a criminal caught red-handed and later on released due to “lack of evidence”. It seems every one blames judiciary/ judicial system and prevailing laws. I would rather draw your attentions towards Investigation flaws. There is no doubt that our investigating agencies are very weak to investigate high profile cases. The Police officers are still obliged to follow the very old investigation techniques described in Police Rules 1861, just imagine….. Police authorities also don’t bother their selves for capacity building of its investigating officers and to take full advantage of modern investigation techniques and forensic science. There might be only few officers throughout Pakistan who might have very basic knowledge of crime scene investigation which is “must” and one cannot produce solid evidence before the court of justice without it. The corrupt Policing system makes investigation even worse. Similarly Prosecution doesn’t take due interest to pursue the criminal cases, as the prosecuting officers get their fixed stipends by the end of each month and they are not answerable to anyone……. So who cares if State loses the case? Moreover, no section/ unit exist within Police department for witness protection. So most of the time the witnesses are reluctant to appear before the trial court due to safety reasons. The witnesses are also required to quit all their personal businesses and have to wait all day long to appear before the trial court. Those are lucky who record their statement in second or third appearance. If we are really serious to bring these hardcore criminals to justice, beside reforms in judiciary, first we have to plan for restructuring of our investigation and Prosecution departments.
Umar Jul 19, 2011 10:13pm
PML Nawaz who had already been exposed, has presented another bad picture of its character. Shame on Nawaz League and shame on so called free Judiciary. Pakistani people are at the mercy of terrorists now.
Agha Ata Jul 19, 2011 11:54pm
It is not the lack of evidence, or the lack of justice, it is the police that lacks the ability to find the evidence. (period)
Salman Jul 20, 2011 12:04am
I agree with the columnist. Pakistan's justice system is pathetic. Judges need to use more common sense then written laws which are obsolete. Moreover its a fact that most judges are corrupt and looking out for their self interest.
MARKS Jul 20, 2011 02:10am
i have few questions to the author of this article 1. Who is responsible for preparation of the case? 2. Who is responsible for collection of evidences? 3. Who is responsible for the safety of witnesses? 4. Right of appeal against a decision in a higher court is the right of suspect! Right or wrong? Author has a story but without any evidence!!! By thinking or feeling a suspect a criminal does not make him one. U NEED TO PROVE ALLEGATIONS. Judicial system can not be blamed for poor prosecution!!! Think over it without being emotional!!!
brighton Jul 20, 2011 03:09am
Dear readers,legal system of pakistan need renewal to keep pace with the time and technic eletronic age. These criminal organisations are too smart to be controled by the legal prosecutors who are fearful and some what religious feelings. This is the govermental responsibility to prosecute the criminals with full fair conviction. Some readers have correct doubt about judges' conscience. How we can deal with the epedamic just correct the legal system which has too many flaws. God may save Pakistan.
k Jul 20, 2011 05:56am
Very true.By the same logic, the Taliban faithfuls who killed 17 policemen in SWAT will never be convicted unless here is an eye witness!
Sarfraz Jul 20, 2011 07:06am
Influenced by PML N this decision all of us know what there vote bank is.
hasan shah Jul 20, 2011 07:15am
What if after release of Malik Ishaq. There is another set of killings.. will the Judge take the blame? Will the honorable Judge take full responsibility? Will the Judiciary find it self guilty? Today, Pakistan lost its Battle against Terrorism.
umar Jul 20, 2011 09:19am
For this judiciary people have struggled and came out on the roads. This is shameful for those people today who are saying that our judiciary is independent. A person who was involved in killing people and identified by the witness have been released by our independent judiciary.
umar Jul 20, 2011 09:24am
If a judge is afraid of his life and family then he should leave this profession.
syed Jul 20, 2011 11:23am
Shame on the prosecution....
SAM RIZVI Jul 20, 2011 12:23pm
BREAKING NEWS: A Terrorist who killed hundreds of peoples is released by Supreme Court "Lack of Evidence" Wow.
Nasir Jul 20, 2011 12:44pm
I am not going to comment on the Article, but the News should be an eye opener. We only have one choice, either we stand up and bring a revolution to fix all the faults in the system, or they will bring a revolution and then Pakistan will be in worst state.
kam Jul 20, 2011 02:19pm
JUSTICE!!!!!!Justice delayed is justice denied..very well said.
Jameel ur Rasheed Jul 20, 2011 02:21pm
The writer of the article and all those in favor of the article should apply in various courts for positions of judges! No one ever writes when, how and why the instigation against Shias were initiated! Every action has a reaction and in a society where we are surrounded by so many fanatics reaction is multiplied by x, where x is number far beyond infinity!
M:A:I Chaudhary Jul 20, 2011 03:00pm
please leave me and my beloved Pakistan we don't need any sect's in our country we just wanna peace and nothing else ...........
Singh Jul 20, 2011 03:01pm
Good on you Harris Bin Munawar. What we need is people like you who can standup against these monsters. Not sure how long these monster will let you keep fighting, please dont give up. As for my friends who think you dont have evidence, just one question to them, why all evidence against this monster are killed?
Raj Jul 20, 2011 03:02pm
As the article states, 5 out of 12 witnesses and 3 of their relatives were killed during the trial, the prosecution is limping on 1 leg. Justice comes from security. If the witnesses are not provided security or anonymity, the entire justice system is a joke. The rot envelopes the whole system of governance, the secret state and the security agencies. On numerous occasions the body-guards ended up killing the very people they were employed to protect. The whole system is covered in corruption!!
mlang Jul 20, 2011 03:21pm
excellent eye opening article. I
Abb Jul 20, 2011 04:00pm
No need to discuss writer intention or his skills on writing..the thoughtful thing to discuss is what our judicial system doing If things are going in such way then be prepared for one more episode of sectarian killings in urban cities.
Jameel ur Rasheed Jul 20, 2011 11:22pm
Judges are there to judge and there duty is to assess the proves that are presented to them, one of my brother here is asking whether a judge would responsibility for any of the acts this released un-convicted guys allegedly does against a particular sect? I question why would he? Is it his job? Instead of criticizing the security systems you are criticizing judicial system because they aren't giving decisions which you like? No judicial system in the world would ever convict this guy if they don't have any witnesses!! Article surely making the judicial system a scapegoat of writer's frustration and hats off to all those are terming it "a really insightful article"!
enough Jul 21, 2011 07:30am
No Sir, Above all its judiciary who lacks the will and courage to call a murder 'a murder'.
Fahad Jul 21, 2011 10:43am
Seriously... this is one extreme one sided article ... This guy talks like he has got all the proof agnainst him, so better not to write this article rather presenting proof in the court.
irshad Jul 21, 2011 01:48pm
which court dear, it is common now a days that courts only releases the killers of Pakistanies people, they taking somoto on the political grounding, why they not taking somoto on karachi Muharram blast, chehlam blast, Eid Millad blast, Parachinar situation (which road are closed for last 4 years), DIKhan daily target killing, Queta shia killings, i find no reason, these lashkar , groups killing sunni tahreek, which court????????????????
Rizwan Jul 23, 2011 12:44am
Justice is not sole responsibility of Judges, it is collective responsibility of state and its machinery. Unfortunately, Pakistan has worst police and judicial system. It is job of police to investigate, using best practice (not torture), collect compelling evidences, safeguard witnesses and then prosecute. Then only judge can examine the evidence and give correct verdict.
salman Jul 31, 2011 02:32pm
gud research