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November 28, 2014

Hang them, but after a fair trial

November 28, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Hang Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and hang others too but at least give them a fair trial.
No one seeks quashment of the case. There is no grudge even if the most irrelevant persons are also named in the FIR. No complaint about the missing police investigation and also the prosecution to ascertain at least the basic facts of the case. The The problem is how an accused could be tried 75 times for one offence.
Article 13 of the Constitution provides that no person shall be prosecuted for the same offence more than once. But in the case of Geo’s controversial “Uttho Jago Pakistan” programme, 75 FIRs have been registered in different parts of the country containing offences ranging from anti-terrorism to blasphemy.
Imagine the accused in these FIRs attending investigations of 75 police stations. Imagine the accused appearing before 75 courts. Imagine 75 police teams running after one set of accused. This could only happen in Pakistan.
Almost 75 court cases if fixed every 15 days would mean that the accused is/are required to appear to defend charges relating to the same incident 160 times every month (24 days) in 75 courts all over the country. It means appearing in six different courts in a SINGLE DAY, a practical impossibility.
And if you don’t appear, it will lead to 75 possible convictions. Mir Shakil-ur Rehman and a few others have already been convicted by an anti-terrorist court in Gilgit for 26 years jail without giving them the chance to defend themselves and without even ascertaining their relevance to the offence.
If the remaining 74 odd FIRs also end up in the same fashion, the jail sentence for these accused would be for thousands of years. What hurts me personally is the reported news story of a television channel, which had claimed that non bailable arrest warrants of Najam Sethi, Amir Liaqat Husain and Ansar Abbasi have been issued by an anti-terrorist court in the same case in a district in the interior Sindh.
I fail

to understand why I have been named in the FIR when I have nothing to do with Geo or any of its show, including Uttho Jago Pakistan. I am an employee of The News. Thank God I don’t watch any morning show because of my serious reservations. But still as per the TV report not only my name has been included in the FIR but the police too let it go and the concerned court issued my non-bailable warrants. It may be a joke for many but I may also end up getting 26 years jail.
As for as my information is concerned Najam Sethi and Dr Amir Liaqat too had nothing to do with Uttho Jago Pakistan but still the court issued their warrants. Why they have been named in the FIR, only the complainant, the police or the court could tell. A director of Jang group Muhammad Suleman is also named in one of the FIRs. Why? Nobody knows.
This situation is known to the government as well as many of the parliamentarians. Earlier the Supreme Court and later the provincial High Courts have been informed about this dilemma of one offence and 75 FIRs.
No one seeks any favour but a fair deal. There has been no demand for quashment of the FIRs or the cases but their merger even if the list of accused grows to include every member of the Jang group and Geo. There is also no demand to exclude any charge. Let all charges included in the book of statutes be included in the FIR against the Jang Group. The only demand is include everything in one FIR. Who can do it, only the legal minds could tell but what one believes the present situation is nothing but mockery of the country’s criminal justice system.
I am told that when over 40 FIRs relating to the same incident had been registered in all four provinces, the Jang management realising that no single High Court could enforce Article 13 all over the country, filed a writ petition before Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The relief sought by Jang group was NOT quashment of any FIR but just to have them clubbed together so that all the accused named in those FIRs could face charges and defend themselves in ONE court. However, after hearing the petition, SC Bench did not club the FIRs but expressed the view that the petitioners should seek remedy from respective High Courts upon which the petition was withdrawn.
When the SC was told that it might delay things the apex court added the following expression in its order: “In case such petitions are filed, we trust that the High Courts would entertain the same expeditiously.”
As per SC’s desire, Jang Group filed petitions in all four High Courts seeking clubbing together of all FIRs. In none of these petitions, the quashment of any FIR was sought. All that has been sought is the collection of FIRs in one place so that the accused could appear before court, obtain bail and face charges against them. But to date, no High Court has clubbed these FIRs.
Mir Shakil-ur Rehman is a wealthy person. He is well connected and can hire dozens of lawyers to defend him in all the high courts, in the apex court and possibly in many of the lower courts but still he can’t face 75 FIRs, 75 criminal investigations and 75 courts. If this could happen to a person with so much influence, the tales of the injustices of our criminal justice system in the case of ordinary Pakistanis and poor fellows would have been horrific and atrocious.
The entire criminal justice system of the country needs a thorough review and complete overhaul for which the government, the parliament and judiciary all have to contribute. The earlier it is done, the better.
With regard to the legal system along with ATC court, Chief Court and Supreme Court of Gilgit Baltistan, it is all based on a notification that was issued by federal government in 2009. In that notification, the federal government forgot to include Articles 4 and 13 of the Constitution. The notification is flawed in that it does not provide any rights for citizens of Pakistan who may be tried in courts in Gilgit.
This means that if a person gets an FIR registered in Gilgit against a citizen of Pakistan, that citizen will not be entitled to any fundamental right, not even the right as guaranteed in Article 4 of Constitution to be treated in accordance with law.
The negligence of federal government in setting up such a defective legal system in Gilgit was always prone to be used and abused by any mischievous person. The system there too needs correction for which the government and Parliament have to play the lead role.

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