The Sindh police have finalised 10 high-profile terrorism cases for trial in military courts, including the Nishtar Park blast which is years old and the Safoora Goth attack that occurred in May this year.
A senior official told The News that the police department had been scrutinising cases after its headquarters had received orders from the interior ministry following the constitutional amendment for the establishment of military courts.
Initially, he added, 102 terrorism cases were shortlisted for further scrutiny. The number then came down to 64 and now 10 cases had been finalised for trial in military courts.
“The police department was especially directed to select cases that involved religious extremism and sectarianism,” the official said.
The 10 selected cases involve suspected terrorists of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and al Qaeda Indian Subcontinent.
The Nishtar Park bombing had occurred on April 11, 2006. A massive bomb blast had ripped through a congregation of the 12th Rabiul Awwal at Nishtar Park, killing over 50 people, including Sunni Tehreek leaders Abbas Qadri and Iftikhar Bhatti and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal leader Hafiz Taqi, and wounding over 100 others.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi activists Sultan Mahmood alias Saifullah, Mufti Zakir Hussain Siddiqui, Mohammad Amin alias Khalid Shaheen, and Rehmatullah were arrested for their alleged involvement in the attack.
The Safoora Goth tragedy occurred on May 13 this year. Terrorists had intercepted a bus carrying members of the Ismaili community and gunned down 45 people on board. Ten others were injured in the attack.
Five men were arrested in a raid in Gulshan-e-Maymar just six days after the attack and identified as Tahir Hussain Minhas alias Saeen Nazeer alias Zahid alias Naveed alias Khalid alias Shaukat alias Mota, Saad Aziz alias Tun Tun alias John, Hafiz Nasir Ahmed alias Yasir, Mohammed Azhar Ishrat alias Majid and Asadur Rehman alias Malik.
The suspects had told interrogators that they were inspired by the Middle East-based terrorist organisation Islamic State.
The official said military courts were fist established in 1992 on the recommendation of a federal investigation team that was formed back then. The reasons for setting up the military courts back then were the slow progress of trials and threats received by judges.
Some cases were tried in those courts but they ceased to exist after the government was dissolved.
The military courts were again set up in 1998 on the recommendation of the law enforcement agencies after a series of killings and bomb blasts in Karachi.
It was again noticed that that trials were not speedy enough and judges feared for their lives.
The first case tried in these courts was that of Rafi Bubbly, who faced charges of raping a child. These military courts existed alongside anti-terrorism courts and dealt with most of the cases. In fact, the offence of illegally possessing a Kalashnikov was also tried in a military court.
The murder case of ex-KESC MD Shahid Hamid against Saulat Mirza too was tried in a military court but was transferred to the apex court after the dissolution of the government.
According to the constitutional amendment through which these courts have been established this time, “an extraordinary situation and circumstances exist which demand special measures for speedy trial of certain offences relative to terrorism, waging of war or insurrection against Pakistan and prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan by the terrorist groups using the name of religion or a sect and also by the members of armed groups, wings and militas.
“There exists grave and unprecedented threat to the integrity of Pakistan and objectives set out in the preamble to the constitution by the framers of the constitution, from the terrorist groups by raising of arms and insurgency using the name of religion or a sect, or from the foreign and locally funded anti-state elements.
“It is expedient that the said terrorists groups including any such terrorists fighting while using the name of religion or a sect, captured or to be captured in combat with the armed forces or otherwise are tried by the courts established under the Acts mentioned hereinafter in section 2.
“And whereas the people of Pakistan have expressed their firm resolve through their chosen representatives in the all parties conferences held in aftermath of the sad and terrible terrorist attack on the Army Public School at Peshawar on 16 December 2014 to permanently wipe out and eradicate terrorists from Pakistan, it is expedient to provide constitutional protection to the necessary measures taken hereunder in the interest of security and integrity of Pakistan.”