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Decision reserved on applications in Benazir case

July 21, 2012

RAWALPINDI, July 21: An anti-terrorism court here on Saturday reserved its judgment on two separate applications seeking transfer of the trial of an accused in the Benazir Bhutto murder case from the ATC to juvenile court.

The court also reserved its verdict on an application challenging the seizure of a bank account of the Pervez Musharraf Foundation. ATC Judge Chaudhry Habibur Rehman will announce verdicts on the two cases on Wednesday.

Arguing on the issue of transfer of trial of accused Aitzaz Shah, senior public prosecutor of the Federal Investigation Agency Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali said most of the cases of terrorism involving youths could not be prosecuted by the ATCs because of the legal bar imposed under the previous Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO).

But he said that under section 21-G of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997, no court other than the ATC could proceed against an accused facing charges of terrorism. Chaudhry Zulfiqar referred to a notification issued by the ministry of interior on May 30 this year which declared ATCs as juvenile courts and empowered them to proceed against the juveniles in the area of their respective jurisdiction.

He said that special courts for control of narcotics substance (CNS) were already exercising the powers of juvenile courts.

Naseer Ahmed Tanoli, the counsel for Aitzaz Shah, argued that a recent judgment of the Lahore High Court categorically stated that juvenile cases could only be heard by juvenile courts. He said there was no section in the ATA which allowed anti-terrorism courts to hold trial of juveniles.

The counsel said the federal government had not challenged the LHC verdict in the Supreme Court within the stipulated time and filed an appeal after a lapse of 40 days.

He said the matter was still pending before the Supreme Court, but it did not suspend the LHC verdict. Therefore, he added, the LHC order restraining other courts, except juvenile courts, from taking up juvenile matters was still in the field.

ACCOUNT SEIZURE: In its application, the management of Habib Bank Limited claimed that being a welfare organisation the account of Pervez Musharraf Foundation could not be frozen.

FIA prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar told the court that HBL management without being an aggrieved party wanted the account of a ‘fugitive’ de-frozen. He said Gen Musharraf’s claim of operating an account of a welfare foundation was false because the former president had Rs750 million in the account since its opening and he had never donated even a single penny for the welfare of flood-affected people or victims of natural disasters.

Chaudhry Zulfiqar said that as per State Bank instructions no person could open an account of any welfare trust in his own name.

MUMBAI ATTACKS: ATC Judge Chaudhry Habibur Rehman summoned for July 28 two prosecution witnesses — sub-inspector Shafiq and assistant sub-inspector Jamshed of the FIA — in the Mumbai attacks case.

According to the prosecution, the witnesses prepared the transcript of CDs received from the Indian authorities. It contains communications between 10 terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks and their alleged Pakistani handlers.

Prosecution agency FIA told the court that the federal government had been informed about the ATC order regarding cross-examination of four Indian witnesses.

On July 17, the ATC had declared illegal the findings of a commission constituted for recording in India the testimonies of four witnesses of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The court observed that findings of the commission headed by S.S. Shinde, the chief metropolitan magistrate of Mumbai, were illegal because he did not allow the defence counsel to cross-examine Indian prosecution witnesses, including woman magistrate R.V. Sawant Waghule, who recorded the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab; Ramesh Mahale, chief investigation officer of the case; and Ganesh Dhunraj and Chintaman Mohite, the two doctors who had carried out post-mortem of the terrorists killed during the attack.