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Police stand alert on a street in Karachi. — File Photo by AFP

KARACHI, Dec 14: A key prosecution witness turned hostile before an anti-terrorism court on Friday when he testified that he had been forced to become the complainant of a murder case against several leaders and members of the banned People’s Amn Committee.

A former union council nazim, Shahjehan Baloch, along with his absconding accomplices, including PAC chief Uzair Jan Baloch, has been charged with attacking a police team during a clean-up operation in Lyari in April-May this year in which five passers-by were killed and scores of policemen sustained bullet wounds.

The witness, then SHO of the Kalakot police station Sub-Inspector Mohammad Rasheed, appeared in court as a prosecution witness and recorded his testimony.

He testified that he along with other policemen were called by a SSP at the Lyari’s Cheel Chowk on April 27, where many wings of different law-enforcement agencies had gathered to launch an operation clean-up against criminals in Lyari.

He deposed that he had supervised the law-enforcement agencies and provided them ammunition and food.

The witness said that after he returned to the police station at night, a policeman brought the draft of an FIR and asked him to sign it. Initially he refused but later he signed the draft of the FIR when he was asked that the case was being lodged on the directives of high-ups, he added.

He admitted that some policemen were wounded and five passers-by were killed when criminals retaliated during the operation. However, he deposed that he had not seen the accused persons who were named in the FIR while firing at the law-enforcers or others persons.

He also did not identify accused Shahjehan Baloch in court in the present case.

The public prosecutor requested the court to declare the witness hostile under the Qanun-i-Shahadat Order 1984 since the latter had deviated from his previous statement recorded under Section 161 of the criminal procedure code by the investigation officer. The prosecutor also requested the court to allow him to grill the witness.

The court allowed both pleas.

During the cross-examination, the witness said it was correct to suggest that he was the complainant in the case. He also replied in the affirmative when asked if he had referred the names of 23 men in the FIR and that he never made a complaint to the high-ups regarding obtaining his signature on a draft of the FIR.

The hostile witness was also cross-examined by the defence counsel. Interestingly, in his examination-in-chief he said that he had supervised the law-enforcement agencies, but during the cross-examination he said CID SSP Chaudhry Aslam and SSP-South Nasir Aftab had supervised the Lyari operation.

The second witness, Assistant Sub-Inspector Mukhtar Ahmed, deposed that he was deputed at the Kalakot police station on the day of the incident and he along with his seniors and subordinates cordoned off a specific area as directed by their superiors and remained there the whole day.He testified that he had no personal knowledge of this crime and no one killed in his presence due to bullet wounds.

“I had not seen any person firing at the police contingent or private person. My statement under Section 161 of the CrPC was not recorded by the IO. On the service of a summon I first time came to know that I have been made a witness in this case. The accused present in court was not seen at the crime scene by me,” he deposed.

Though the witness did not support the version of the prosecution, the prosecutor made no request to the court to declare him hostile.

Judge Ghulam Mustafa Memon of the ATC-III adjourned the hearing till Dec 22 for further evidence.

According to the prosecution, members of the banned PAC and Lyari gang warfare had attacked the law-enforcement agencies, including the police, the FC, the CID etc, on April 27 with weapons, rockets and hand grenades during a police operation in Lyari. An armoured personnel carrier of the police and some police vans were damaged due to the attack and some policemen sustained injuries while five passers-by were also killed, it added.

A case (FIR 64/12) was registered under Sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 302 (premeditated murder), 324 (attempted murder), 353 (criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 3/4 of the Explosive Substance Act read with Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 at the Kalakot police station.

Uzair Jan Baloch, Habib Jan, Zafar Baloch, Zubair Baloch, Zahid Ladla, Umar Kachhi, Taj Mohammad alias Taju, Wasiullah Lakho, Asif Niazi, Ramzan alias Ramzani, Sattar alias Peera, Rashid Bengali, Ameen Bulaidi, Faisal Pathan, Fahad Pathan, Sikandar alias Siko, Shahid alias Mix Patti, Shiraz Comrade, Sohail Dada, Mulla Nisar, Shafi Pathan and 25 to 30 unknown persons have already been declared proclaimed offenders in the case.

Around 35 cases against the leaders and activists of the banned PAC for allegedly attacking the law-enforcement agencies during the Lyari operation are pending before the ATC-III.