Authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the verdict made it clear that the court would continue to keep a watchful eye and strike down any illegal pressures or orders brought to its notice. —File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court announced on Thursday an overarching judgment on the law and order situation and target killings in Karachi and criticised both the federal and Sindh governments for their failure to ensure peaceful economic activity in the city. It termed the “unimaginable brutalities” a result of a turf war aimed at keeping socio-political control over the city.

Authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the verdict which may have a sobering effect on almost all forces involved in the violence, made it clear that the court would continue to keep a watchful eye and strike down any illegal pressures or orders brought to its notice.

The 152-page voluminous judgment said the court expected a new culture of independent, de-politicised and non-partisan prosecution to aid and assist courts.

It asked the federal and provincial governments to exert efforts in the interest of the nation and the country and warned that any further failure to protect the lives and property of citizens would cause unprecedented disaster.

The court ordered elimination of ‘no-go areas’ in the city and asked political parties to denounce criminal elements in their ranks. It directed the authorities to work for de-weaponising the city and the Election Commission to delimit constituencies.

The verdict called for new laws to deal with the menace of land-grabbing, creation of an independent and a de-politicised investigation agency to investigate crimes, setting up of a special cell to deal with illegal immigrants, collection of facts about disappearance of police officers who had taken part in the 1992 and 1996 Karachi operations and payment of compensation to the victims.

The verdict specifically mentioned the confessional statement of Ajmal Pahari who had killed 100 people and got weapon training in India and asked the federal and provincial governments to ensure smooth running of economic and commercial activities.

About the demand for banning some political parties, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the chief justice said the issue did not come under the court’s domain. However, he pointed out that it was the duty of the federal government under Article 17 (2) to make a declaration about any political party working against the sovereignty or integrity of the country and refer the matter to the Supreme Court within 15 days of such a declaration. The court’s decision on such reference would be final.

The verdict cited a report of the Special Branch of police which said that ‘bhatta’ (extortion money) was being collected invariably by people who claimed their association with the Awami National Party, MQM, Pakistan People’s Party, Jamaat-i-Islami, Sunni Tehrik and banned outfits.

“They (citizens) are so frightened that none of them comes forward to lodge a report, rather prefer to pay bhatta or unhesitatingly agree to hand over their valuables. The whole city seems to be in the grip of fear,” the judgment lamented.

The verdict ordered formation of a committee headed by the SHC chief justice and assisted by the chief secretary, heads of security agencies, including paramilitary organisations, and Inspector General Police to supervise and ensure indiscriminate and across-the-board action by law-enforcement agencies against elements disturbing peace in Karachi.

The SHC chief justice will convene meetings of the committee at least once a month to review implementation of the SC verdict and send its recommendations to the SC registrar for appropriate orders, if needed, at a later stage.

The verdict asked the government to ensure smooth running of economic and commercial activities in the city by taking steps against illegal shutter-downs and strikes which paralysed normal life of citizens and caused losses of billions of rupees in one day.

“Therefore, the government and political parties should evolve a respectable way out to avoid such a situation in future.

Violence in Karachi this year as well as in the past was not ethnic alone, but a turf war between different groups having economic, socio-politico interest to strengthen their position or aggrandisement, based on the phenomenon of tit-for-tat with political, moral and financial support or endorsement of political parties claiming their representation on behalf of public of Karachi, including components and non-components of the provincial government,” it said.

The verdict said: “The recent violence in Karachi represents unimaginable brutalities, bloodshed, kidnapping and throwing away dead bodies and torsos in bags; as illustration, indicating toll of 306 lives in one month; detection of torture cells video; receiving bhatta to strengthen the ranks of one group against the other; grabbing land; drug mafia, etc, destroying moveable and immovable properties of the citizens, establishes that the fundamental rights of the citizens enshrined in Articles 9, 14, 15, 18 and 24 of the Constitution have not been protected by the provincial government.

“This failure has made the lives and properties of the citizens insecure; the federal government also failed in protecting Sindh against internal disturbance while the Sindh government also failed to carry out functions in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.”

The judgment asked the provincial and federal governments to find out solutions within the Constitution for which police force, being principal law-enforcement agency, would have to be de-politicised and strengthened so that they could, with full commitment, dedication, zeal and zest, perform their bounden duty. “Unless there is a de-politicised police, the situation of law and order is likely to become more aggravated, no sooner the assistance of Rangers is withdrawn.”

The verdict deplored that criminals had succeeded in making their ways into political parties, notwithstanding whether they were components or non-components of the government, and were getting political and financial support allegedly from such parties.

“Therefore, the political parties should denounce their affiliation with them in the interest of the country and democratic set-up. They should not allow them to use their names as militant outfits of the political parties. Failure to do so may entail consequences of a penal nature against the party or person responsible, whether in office or not.

“To avoid political polarisation and to break the cycle of ethnic strife and turf war, boundaries of administrative units like police stations, revenue estates ought to be altered so that members of different communities may live together in peace and harmony, instead of allowing various groups to claim these particular areas as no-go areas under their fearful influence,” it said.

The verdict asked for delimitation of different constituencies to make Karachi a peaceful city and said the Election Commission might initiate the process in this respect on its own.

It stressed the need for providing equal opportunities to different communities to participate in economic and commercial activities, instead of confining them to different political groups on the basis of parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian, partisan and provincial prejudices.

“Karachi is full of arms and ammunition of prohibited and non-prohibited bores, including licensed and illicit,” the verdict deplored and asked for cleansing the city of all kinds of weapons by adhering to the laws available on the subject and, if needed, by promulgating a new legislation.

“All licensed arms genuinely required for security purposes and personal safety should be registered with Nadra. Multiple licences issued in the name of one individual (as distinct from security firms) if not justified should be cancelled after summary and expeditious proceedings. Display of arms at ceremonies or elsewhere for aerial firing should also be banned in the same fashion.”

The judgment asked for a comprehensive law to eliminate and punish land-grabbers and encroachers. “This is one of the Karachi’s greatest problems. It is the overall duty of both governments (federal and provincial) to formulate laws and implement them without showing favour or immunity to any person whether a political favourite, ally or for any other personal or party consideration.”

The judgment asked for strict monitoring of criminal cases and appointments of presiding officers in anti-terrorism courts without any delay.

“Since innocent citizens have lost their lives and valuable property, both moveable and immovable, the provincial government should constitute a commission to assess the losses and compensate to the sufferers without partisan consideration as early as possible.”

The court ordered elimination of ‘no-go areas’ in Karachi and, if found any, the provincial government might ask Rangers to take strong and decisive action to eliminate it. “Moreover, if such an area is proved to be existed to the satisfaction of the court, it may require the IGP himself and, if necessary, the Rangers DG, to personally lead the operation in such areas.”

The verdict expected that police and Rangers would carry out the ongoing operation across-the-board without showing favour to anyone and without being influenced by any quarter, be it political or otherwise. “In case they are asked to obey any illegal orders, or to show leniency to any criminal, it will be their duty to bring it to the notice of the apex court.”

The court ordered establishment of an independent and depoliticised investigation agency to probe cases fairly, honestly and without being influenced in any manner.

“The provincial government must provide protection to the witnesses so that they may depose against the perpetrators of crimes without any fear, enabling the courts to decide cases against them in accordance with law. The prosecutors, particularly for the ATC, should be appointed in a highly transparent manner. Appointments of prosecutors are required to be undertaken without any political whims and considerations.”

The verdict required the DG Rangers and the IGP to set up a special joint cell with specialised officers and experts, along with sufficient manpower, to visit areas and identify illegal foreigners so that they might be dealt with strictly in accordance with the law after a proper hearing and opportunity to present proof of their citizenship. They should attempt to conclude this exercise preferably in one year.

The IGP is also required to collect the record and facts about the disappearance or elimination of police and other officials who had taken part in the Karachi operations of 1992 and 1996 or were witnesses to ethnic or related crimes. The police chief was asked to present a report in this regard to the court in one month, showing if their families had been compensated.

The provincial government is required to place on record copies of all judicial inquiries instituted in the matter of law and order in Karachi since 1985. “These shall be retained for perusal and for any necessary action or appraisal of the situation at any time in the future,” the verdict said.



Vox populi
22 Mar, 2023

Vox populi

History will not judge kindly those who throw the laws of this land in the bin to keep just one man away from power.
Iraq’s wounds
22 Mar, 2023

Iraq’s wounds

TWO decades after the US military machine — aided by the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ — stormed into Iraq, ...
Mental health epidemic
22 Mar, 2023

Mental health epidemic

THERE are mounting stressors in the day-to-day existence of average Pakistanis. Rising inflation and unemployment...
Petroleum subsidy
Updated 21 Mar, 2023

Petroleum subsidy

The govt seems more interested in reviving its political capital through ad hoc measures rather than fixing economy.
Country on edge
Updated 21 Mar, 2023

Country on edge

In this war of petty egos, ordinary people cannot continue to suffer.
Afghan funding cut
21 Mar, 2023

Afghan funding cut

AS the world grapples with multiple crises, the miseries of the people of Afghanistan seem to have been relegated to...