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Thursday May 23, 2024

Sectarian attack survivor appears before ATC to identify two suspected Daesh militants

By Zubair Ashraf
May 27, 2021

“What service have they done to Islam by taking the lives of innocent people?” asked the survivor of a sectarian attack during an interview with The News on Wednesday as he waited for his hearing at an anti-terrorism court (ATC), where he was to identify two suspected militants belonging to the Islamic State, popularly known by its Arabic acronym Daesh.

“In the Holy Quran, Almighty Allah says there is no compulsion in Islam. Then why don’t they understand? What they did has never been among the teachings of Islam,” he said as he walked towards the courtroom for his deposition.

Dressed in a blue polo shirt and a pair of grey trousers falling over a pair of black trainers, the silver-bearded man had his head covered with a traditional Bohri cap and his face with a surgical mask.

He had been waiting for his hearing since morning on the benches in the long corridor of the ATC complex inside the Central Jail Karachi, and his turn came at around 2pm. He appeared anxious, because in the courtroom he could possibly face two of the four people who had killed his brother-in-law and an employee as well as wounded him while firing at his shop in 2015. The shooter had aimed for his chest but, fortunately, the bullet had pierced through his right hand without damaging a vein or hitting the bone.

“I’d been unable to use my hand for a year,” he said, showing the two bullet marks on his wrist. “The incident ruined everything: my mental health and my business. Everything was taken away in just a few seconds,” he recalled, with his eyes teary.

Unlike outside, where the 37-degree sun was bathing people in sweat, the courtroom was chilled, thanks to the air conditioning. He was seated in the front row besides the lead lawyers, while the suspects Saad Aziz and Tahir Minhas were standing in the last row behind a black iron net supported by grills.

The judge asked if he could identify the suspects. He took a look at them in what he later defined as a moment of flashback: “Four young men on two motorbikes, disembarking, pointing their pistols at him and the sound of fire.”

He told the judge that he had seen the shooters six years ago, so he was not certain if these men were the same. Following his statement, the defence attorney asked the judge to make note that the witness had not been able to recognise the accused and rested his case for the day.

Later, he was asked to cooperate with the investigators in getting testimonies from the neighbours. Basically, as a formality, the court had to verify the death of the two people in the incident. “Would they be required to appear in court?” he asked, explaining that the families of the two victims were already wary of the trial.

“They don’t want any trouble,” he said, adding that he was also worried because two of the shooters were still absconding. “They’d be speaking to their friends in prison. There’d be communication among them somehow. It’s all possible.”

Besides, he was more interested in the profiles of the suspects: Aziz, a business graduate from the Institute of Business Administration, and Minhas, a self-employed man. In the courtroom he had asked the staffer if he could speak to the accused, but he was told not to do so. “I was just curious,” he later said.

He was asked if the accused whom he saw in the courtroom were among the perpetrators. “I’m not sure. These guys had thick beards, unlike the shooters, who had short ones,” he said, and quoted the former spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, as saying: “Either you see or do not see at all, there is no in-between.”

A military court has already convicted and sentenced Aziz and Minhas, along with others, to death for the mass murder of Ismaili community members, including women and children, in firing on their bus.

They have also been found guilty of other felonies, including the murder of social activist Sabeen Mahmud. Some cases pertaining to sectarian killings and attacks on law enforcers are pending against them.