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Saturday May 18, 2024

More judges receive letters containing ‘toxic powder’

CTD launches inquiry into the matter, registers two FIRs against unknown people

By Mumtaz Alvi & News Desk & Salman Aslam & Sohail Khan
April 06, 2024
Lahore High Courts (LHC) Justice Ali Baqar Najafi. — LHC website
Lahore High Court's (LHC) Justice Ali Baqar Najafi. — LHC website

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Authorities concerned have failed to stop letters laced with ‘toxic powder’ as five more Supreme Court (SC) judges received such letters on Friday, bringing the total count to 10 jurists of the apex court.

Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Muneeb Akhtar are the latest recipients of the intimidating letters, according to sources. However, sources added, that all letters were received on the same date, but some justices were handed over those on Friday.

Meanwhile, eight judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and six of the Lahore High Court (LHC) have so far received letters containing ‘toxic power’. The latest LHC judge to receive the threatening letter was Justice Baqar Najafi.

The letters have been handed over to the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) officials for further investigation, the sources added.

The CTD also lodged two FIRs against unknown people and launched an inquiry into the matter. Three teams of the CTD have been formed to trace the culprits, according to official sources.

Two teams are from Islamabad CTD and the third is from Lahore CTD. Each team of Islamabad CTD consists of eight members, headed by a DSP. However, the Lahore CTD team consists of 17 members. A team of Islamabad CTD is investigating people in markets around the post office. Another team of Islamabad CTD is working on CCTV footages. The Lahore CTD team is working on CCTV of post offices in Rawalpindi and Sector I-12. All teams are informing the Supreme Court and high court registrars about the progress on a daily basis.

Apart from this, the CTD has also contacted NADRA. Sources said that data would be taken from NADRA on the basis of name and parentage.

Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court (LHC) administration devised new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for receiving letters in the names of jurists, in the wake of receipt of threatening letters by the judges.

“New SOPs have been devised for handling the letters being received for the jurists,” the LHC administration said in a statement on Friday. All courier companies, post offices and postmen have been issued alert and they have been restricted to mandatory clearance of all kinds of letters and posts from the security room. A deputy superintendent police (DSP) ranked officers would conduct security check of letters before they would be handed over to the relevant judges’ staff.

A postman namely Atif — who delivered the letters containing suspicious powdery substance to the judges’ offices — told Geo News that it was his routine work to deliver letters and he did not know what was inside envelopes.

After delivery of suspected powder-laced letters, the Pakistan Post also took special measures for security of staffers and thorough inspection of postal letters, and other mails. It has been directed to provide masks and gloves to the staffers for their safety and security.

Subsequently, the Pakistan Post ordered entire staffers to carefully check letters and other mails, especially the mails in the names of judges, diplomats and other high-profile personalities, a notification read. The postal staffers have also been directed to stay vigilant while booking and delivery of mails, it added.

Also, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Friday demanded formation of a judicial commission comprising sitting judges of the Supreme Court for an impartial investigation into the allegations of Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges about alleged interference by the intelligence agencies in the judicial affairs.

A PBC meeting was held here at the Supreme Court with Council Vice Chairman Riazat Ali Sahar in the chair. The meeting considered the letter, written on March 25, 2024 by six IHC judges to chairman and members of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), alleging interference of intelligence agencies in the judicial affairs, and seeking to determine the course of action.

The PBC, through a resolution, resolved that an impartial investigation, devoid of any external interference, was crucial to reveal the truth, for which a judicial commission comprising sitting SC judges should be formed to settle the issues raised by the six judges. The meeting requested the SC to decide expeditiously, the suo motu case, taken on the letter of six IHC judges regarding alleged interference by the intelligence agencies.

It Council resolved that the demand for resignation of the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) and chief justice (CJ) of the IHC and the campaign on social media against them was uncalled for. It said the demand was tantamount to strengthening the hands of those who wanted division in the judiciary of Pakistan. “Thus it is strongly condemned, calling for their resignation would not only undermine the judiciary but also fail to resolve the existing issues and worsen the situation, leaving the country without a guiding figure to navigate through these critical challenges,” the resolution added.

Separately, former president Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Abid S. Zubairi and members of Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Muneer Ahmed Kakar, Shahab Sarki and others Friday demanded full court for hearing suo motu, taken on the letter of IHC six judges about interference of intelligence agencies in judicial affairs.

They, along with other lawyers including Shafqat Chohan, Chaudhry Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan and Tahir Faraz Abbasi, filed a civil miscellaneous application (CMA) in the Supreme Court for becoming party to the suo motu case.

They submitted that the allegations levelled by six IHC judges were of serious nature, which needed an independent and impartial investigation to bring out the real facts.

They submitted that earlier Justice (retd) Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had also levelled such allegations; therefore, it was necessary to investigate the matter thoroughly and restrain the government and secret agencies from interfering in judiciary. Separately, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) core committee vehemently denounced the harassment of judges of the higher judiciary through dubious letters, calling for exemplary action against those responsible for harassment of judges.

The committee reiterated the demand for setting up of a full court on the letter of six judges of the Islamabad High Court, live telecast of court proceedings and holding of judicial convention.