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August 4, 2010

Plot to kill Musharraf

Instep Today

BS
Buraq Shabbir
August 4, 2010

Karachi

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has set aside the conviction of three activists of the banned Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Al-Alami in the conspiracy to kill former president Pervez Musharraf, observing that the prosecution had failed to establish its charges before the trial court.

Mohammad Imran, Haneef and Mohammad Ashraf Khan had been sentenced to aggregate 35 years in prison by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Karachi on January 15, 2008, which found them guilty of hatching a conspiracy to kill Gen Musharraf.

The court, however, had acquitted the co-accused including Sharib Arsalan Farooqui, Mohammad Jameel and Rangers Inspector Waseem Akhtar as the allegation against them could not be proved by the prosecution.

The prosecution alleged that the accused, who were opposing Musharraf government’s policies on Afghanistan and Kashmir after 9/11 attacks in the US, planned to assassinate him and parked an explosives-laden vehicle on Sharea Faisal, Karachi, to blow the convoy of the former president on April 26 in 2002, but failed to achieve their objective.

For proving its case, the prosecution had relied upon the confessional statements of Imran, Haneef and Mohammad Ashraf which they had recorded before the magistrate. However, the appellants retracted from their statements before the trial court.

Appellants’ counsel Abdul Waheed Katpar contended that the confessional statements of Imran, Hanif and Ashraf were neither voluntarily nor recorded by the judicial magistrate in accordance with the law and the dictum laid down by the superior courts, submitting that these could not be used against them for conviction as the same were not corroborated by the prosecution with other evidence.

The counsel said that the appellants retracted from their statements in the trial court and such statements could not be pressed into service of conviction until they were corroborated in material particulars apart from confessional

statements.

He submitted that no offence under the charge of conspiracy was made out as nothing offensive had been done, besides no recovery was made by the prosecution including the vehicle that was used for the attempted assassination of the former president.

SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Shahid Anwar Bajwa observed in the judgment that the prosecution miserably failed to prove the charges against the appellants as there was no explanation with regard to delay in recording their confessional statements as well as absence of evidence relating to details of vehicle used in the incident and its presence at the footpath on Sharea Faisal and purchase of explosives by the appellants.

“No conviction could have been based on such kind of confessions recorded under such kind of circumstances,” the court observed in its judgment. The court noticed that investigation leaves so much to be desired that one was left wondering whether there was any attempt at investigation or not.

The court set aside the conviction of the appellants and ordered to release them if not required in other cases.

The acquittal order by the SHC has not only ended the over eight years’ incarceration of the appellants, who were initially arrested by the police in connection with the US consulate suicide car-bombing case in June 2002, but also raised several questions over police investigation that dealt with the high-profile terrorism cases in Musharraf’s regime.

The appellants had been retried by the ATC following judgment by Sindh High Court in November 2006, which set aside previous conviction of Imran, Haneef and Ashraf Khan by the ATC and remanded back the case for retrial, observing that the trial court had erred in appreciating prosecution case by not framing murder charges against the appellants. Earlier, the ATC had sentenced them to 10 years in prison on October 18, 2003 after finding them guilty for the offence of conspiring to commit murder attempt on Gen. Musharraf.

Imran, Hanif and two other Harkat activists Sharib Arsalan Farooqui and Hafiz Zubair were also convicted by the ATC for masterminding car-bombing near US consulate in June 2002 but the SHC had turned down the judgment and exonerated them of the charge in October 2006. Another co-accused Naveedul Hasan, tried by the ATC separately in both the abovementioned cases, was also acquitted by the court as prosecution failed to prove charges against him in 2005.

Judgment reserved: Meanwhile, Sindh High Court reserved judgment on the appeal of three convicts in a drug case after hearing the closing arguments of state and appellants counsel. Mateen Kamal, Shamsur Rehman and Abdul Samad were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Control of Narcotics Substance Court on December 24, 2008. According to prosecution, Excise Department recovered 1,948 kilograms charas from a house in North Nazimabad area and arrested the appellants on March 13, 2004.