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SHC asked to make JIT reports of Uzair, Morai, Baldia fire public

Karachi

May 21, 2019

The Sindh High Court (SHC) was requested on Monday to direct the Sindh government to make the joint investigation teams’ (JITs) reports on Lyari-based gangster Uzair Baloch, former Fishermen Cooperative Society chairman Dr Nisar Morai and the Baldia factory fire case public.

Concluding the arguments before the SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro, the petitioner’s counsel Omer Soomro said the JITs were formed on the provincial government’s request, and after the completion of the investigations, their reports were being concealed from the public, who has the right to know the truth.

Soomro said that several police officers and government officials who were not promoted to senior posts were involved in the activities of the criminals and remained silent spectators by not performing their duties in accordance with the law. He requested the court to publish and provide official copies of the JITs’ reports. After hearing the arguments of the petitioner’s counsel, the high court adjourned the hearing until August 5, on which date the Sindh advocate general will file his arguments.

Right to know

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, who is now a federal minister, had submitted in his petition that the JIT reports had made startling disclosures about the involvement of politicians in crimes such as murder and extortion. He said the relevant authorities were approached to obtain copies of the reports and to make them public but to no avail.

The PTI leader said Baloch, tried by a military court under charges of espionage for Iranian intelligence agencies, had confessed to his affiliation with the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) central leadership, including its women wing leader Faryal Talpur.

He said the gangster had admitted to paying Faryal the extortion money collected from different departments, adding that the man had also confessed to killing several people on the PPP leadership’s directives and to facilitating them in owning private properties after threatening their owners to vacate them.

Invoking the constitution’s Article 19-A (“Right to information”), Zaidi asserted that the provincial and federal governments’ failure to publish the JIT reports was a violation of the citizens’ fundamental rights.

He said the content of the JIT reports was of public importance because it related to crimes that had wide-reaching implications on the people at large.

To strengthen his party’s case, he said print and electronic media, through various sources, had reported on the JITs obtaining evidence that suggested the involvement of various politicians in criminal activities. “It is imperative that such people are held accountable for their actions.”

He argued that as long as the JIT reports were kept confidential, the public would be left at the mercy of corrupt politicians who continued to silently exercise the influence they had over them, whereas investigations launched against them would go nowhere.

The PTI leader said disclosure of the JIT reports was quite important because they carried allegations that the state machinery was being used to commit and cover up crimes. “People have the right to know if public resources were used for such activities.”

He said that the very purpose of constituting the JITs was to uncover the truth of the crimes they were to investigate, adding that the reason stood defeated if the reports were kept confidential.

He maintained that the JIT reports were required to be made public under the provisions of the Sindh Transparency & Right to Information Act. He said the families of the Lyari gang war’s victims and of those who perished in the Baldia fire and other crimes deserved justice. Their heirs should know who the perpetrators of those crimes were, he added, and requested the court to publish and provide official copies of the reports prepared by the JITs in the cases.

The provincial government had earlier submitted the JITs’ reports on Baloch as well as the Baldia factory fire for the perusal of the court in camera.

The court was informed that there were only two JIT reports pertaining to Baloch and the Baldia factory fire case suspect Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, which had been produced before the trial court in sealed condition.

The bench was also informed that the JIT report of the Morai case was not found in the police file or on judicial record, and that the JIT of the Morai case was headed by former Malir SSP Rao Anwar.

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