Pak military over minimal terrorists` conviction
Last Updated: Monday, June 13, 2011, 18:55
Islamabad: Pakistani military authorities have expressed serious concern over the "dismally low rate of terrorists' conviction" by courts across the country and asked the government to see if some changes can be made in relevant laws, according to a media report on Monday.

At a recent meeting between the top civilian and military leadership, the issue of increasing number of terrorists securing easy acquittals from courts, mainly in the absence of evidence, came up and it was decided to conduct a complete review of the law of evidence, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying.

The meeting decided to review all laws related to handling of terrorists, in particular the law of evidence.

These laws should be carefully studied and loopholes identified for amendment, the sources were quoted as saying.

Where there was a need for additions or a new law, the matter must be decided on a priority basis by the Law Ministry, the report said.

The military was "particularly worried" about terrorists who had been arrested since the launch of army operations in Malakand division in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the tribal areas only to be eventually acquitted by courts, the report said.

However, Supreme Court lawyer Zafarullah Khan found "little wisdom" in the suggestion to amend the law of evidence which was in practise in several countries and being successfully implemented.

Acknowledging the alarmingly low rate of conviction for terrorists, including some caught red handed by law enforcement agencies, Khan said the problem was not with the contents of the law of of evidence but with the prosecution department of police.

This is a countrywide problem and not restricted to any particular province and area, he said. Khan was a prosecution lawyer in the murder case of former army general Ameer Faisal Alvi, killed in Islamabad in November 2008.

The accused in that case were set free for lack of evidence.

He said that in the wake of increasing terrorist attacks, law enforcement agencies were facing problems at three different levels in securing judgements against terrorists.

It was difficult to find an eyewitness in cases of suicide bombing or other terrorist activities, he said.

A witness is considered an irrefutable piece of evidence but witnesses preferred to "stay away for fear of reprisals from terrorist organisations", he added.

In cases where there are joint investigation teams comprising police, the Federal Investigation Agency and intelligence agencies, the law enforces find causes of, and leads to a certain incident but provide little help in prosecuting the accused.

In the Marriot bombing case and in another case of an attack on a mosque in Rawalpindi, courts had to acquit the accused for lack of evidence, said Khan.

Police complete their investigation but do not collect adequate evidence from the court?s point of view, he said. "As a result, an accused easily manages to secure a favourable judgement," he added.

The failure of prosecution by police was substantiated by a Supreme Court official involved in monitoring provincial anti-terrorism courts.

The official, who spoke to the daily on condition of anonymity, said that in a majority of cases in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, police provided only one-page statements.

In some cases, even FIRs were found missing, the official said.

Hence, criticism of the judiciary for failing to convict terrorists is highly misplaced, he said.

There was a need to review not only the law of evidence but the entire legal set-up created in 1997 by then premier Nawaz Sharif to counter terrorist activities.


First Published: Monday, June 13, 2011, 18:55

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