Tuesday April 23, 2024

IHC judges receive letters ‘laced with anthrax’

IHC chief justice among eight judges received “suspected anthrax-laced letters"

By Awais Yousufzai & Shakeel Anjum
April 03, 2024
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) building in Islamabad. — APP/File
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) building in Islamabad. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Just a day after the Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo motu notice over the allegations of six Islamabad High Court judges against intelligence agencies, the IHC chief justice among eight judges received “suspected anthrax-laced letters”, Geo News reported citing sources on Tuesday.

A police team comprising experts launched a thorough probe to collect facts and ascertain the chemical nature of the powdery substance after the eight IHC judges received “letters containing suspected anthrax powder along with a threatening message”.

The letters were sent by a woman named Resham without mentioning her address, the sources said. They added that a staffer of a judge accidentally dropped the envelope containing the suspicious powdery substance and later felt extreme irritation in eyes and burns on skin around his lips. Following the incident, Islamabad Inspector General (IG) and Deputy Inspector General (DIG) police were summoned to the Islamabad High Court. All the suspicious letters were handed over to the police for further investigation.

The development came just a day after the Supreme Court took suo motu notice and formed a seven-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa to hear the matter after the six IHC judges blamed intelligence agencies for meddling in judicial affairs.

Upon receiving the mysterious letters, a team of experts from the Islamabad Police promptly arrived at the Islamabad High Court to examine the suspicious powder posted by Mst Resham Khatoon, wife of Waqar Hussain. They did not contain the sender’s address.

The letters were addressed to the judges of Islamabad High Court with their names and sent on the high court’s address, “Islamabad High Court, Constitution Avenue, G-5, Islamabad.”

The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of the federal capital police has lodged the first information report (FIR) under anti-terrorist act (ATA) against the unknown people for hurling threats to judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) by mail with suspected anthrax powder, the CTD sources said.

Superintendent of Police, CTD, Hamza Humayun, when contacted by this correspondent, said that the CTD has lodged an FIR under 7 ATA, which covers broad offences of terrorism. However, other sections would be added in the FIR after getting information and clues against the people, he said. “Investigation has been initiated against the criminals and police will get them soon,” Hamza maintained.

Sources close to the investigation indicated that the letters have heightened concerns about the safety of the judiciary. The episode has sent shockwaves throughout the legal community, prompting calls for enhanced security measures for judges and the judicial staff.

In a related development, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf demanded an immediate and comprehensive investigation into the issue of judges receiving suspicious letters.

A party spokesperson said, “Prime facie, the clear purpose of the letters containing deadly or toxic materials is to intimidate the high court judges and make them withdraw the letter sent to the Supreme Judicial Council.”

After the transmission of these letters, he emphasised that the need for decisive investigation and action in the matter of interference in the judiciary has increased manifold.

“Special measures should be taken for the security of the six judges and their families who wrote letters to the Islamabad High Court,” he maintained.

To effectively prevent interference and corruption and to protect the judiciary from such threats, he contended, the Chief Justice of Pakistan should refer the matter to the full court without delay and take it to its logical conclusion through open action.