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March proves unhelpful to courts

January 15, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Jan 14: By marching on Islamabad, Dr Tahirul Qadri wanted, among other things, to broaden the powers of the Supreme Court but, ironically, it disrupted the normal functioning of the judiciary in the city.

Not only most of the cases fixed for Monday in the Islamabad High Court and the sessions court went unheard, the one-man commission appointed by the Supreme Court to probe the 2007 bloody operation in Lal Masjid could not start the second phase of its proceedings as none of the six witnesses it had summoned appeared before it.

Neither any witness is likely to appear on Tuesday because of the strict security and uncertain situation created by the presence of thousands of activists in Islamabad.

A strike, and boycott of the courts, called by the Pakistan Bar Council over the sectarian massacre in Quetta also interfered with the courts’ working.

An official connected with the commission, headed by Justice Shehzado Sheikh of the Federal Shariat Court, told Dawn that the 45-day deadline, set by the Supreme Court for finishing the task, expires on January 19.

Although the Supreme Court is expected to grant extra time, the official worried “what if the sit-in by the marchers continues indefinitely?”

Dr Qadri has declared it would.

According to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the commission has yet to record the statements of witnesses to the bloody events of July 2007 in the Lal Masjid.

After recording their testimony, the commission would testify court witnesses, who may be officers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies and politicians.

Finally, the commission would send its findings to the Supreme Court, along with the evidence and statements it recorded, the official said.

In the first phase of the inquiry, which lasted from December 31 to January 12, the commission recorded statements of voluntary witnesses, registered between December 19 to December 26, 2012.

Witnesses summoned but could not appear on Monday included Shah Abdul Aziz, former MNA from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Akmal Saleemi, who petitioned the Supreme Court about the Lal Masjid operation, advocate Ikram Chaudhry, two sisters of Maulana Abdul Aziz, chief cleric of the masjid at the time, and Maulana Hanif Jalandhri of Wafaqul Madaris.

The Supreme Court constituted the commission on December 4, 2012.