Where terrorists walk free

One of the founding members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the notorious sectarian outfit, is reportedly going to be set free soon after 13 years. Malik Ishaq, self-confessed hitman of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who himself admitted to a local Urdu daily in October 1997 that he had been “instrumental in the killing of 102 people”, will be a free man if reports are to be believed. The plight of Fida Hussain Ghalvi is even worse than those hundreds of people’s families who have been killed by Malik Ishaq himself or at his behest. Ghalvi lost 12 family members when Ishaq and his seven allies attacked a majlis. Mr Ghalvi has been persistently fighting for justice since the last 13 years. In an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Mr Ghalvi recounted the hardships he has had to face in pursuing this case. From death threats to living a life in isolation, this journey has been an extremely painful one. The news of Ishaq’s release has obviously come as a shock to Mr Ghalvi and many others. It just goes to show how difficult it is for the victims of terror to get justice in a country where criminals walk free.

Pakistan finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Dealing with economic problems on the one hand and fighting the war on terror on the other has made things difficult for the state. On top of that we are now seeing a resurgence of sectarian terrorism in the country. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is one of the most prominent sectarian militant groups in Pakistan. An offshoot of Sipah-e-Sahaba, the members of this group have unleashed terror against the Shia community for decades now. To see one of its founding members getting ‘freedom’ due to “lack of evidence” raises important questions about the system’s inadequacy to tackle cases related to terrorism. Malik Ishaq was charged with the murder of 70 people in 44 different cases but he could not be convicted because there was not enough evidence against him. This case indicates why there is virtually no conviction of terrorists in Pakistan. Eyewitnesses either did not come forward for fear of retribution, or when they did appear to testify, they were killed; police officials pursuing the case were threatened; judges were intimidated to change their verdicts.

If Pakistan is to rid itself of terrorists, it has to revamp its justice system. When cases against terrorists are brought to court, the reason many witnesses do not venture forth is due to fear. Pakistan needs a proper witness protection programme. Not many people are as brave as Mr Ghalvi. The police, the prosecutors, the judges and the witnesses in such cases need state protection. The next step would be to deal with the lacunae in the prosecution process, which cannot be done overnight. The police are already overburdened. A separate prosecution branch should be formed to deal with such cases with good investigators and highly competent lawyers to steer the cases through the courts. We also need proper forensic labs to collect and scrutinise evidence. When the courts are unable to convict these terrorists, it is mostly because the prosecution fails to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. We have seen this in Hafiz Saeed’s case. There should be a special law for terrorism-related cases whereby it can be ensured that these monsters are not let loose on society and wreak havoc all over again. The hydra of terrorism has to be quashed or else this country will see many more cold-blooded murderers terrorising innocent citizens.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

Comments

Anonymous said…
Don't you have anything new to tell us. This is just another lame effort of filling in the newspaper, like little kids like to color their drawing books...after one paragraph it's all blah blah blah blah.
mehmal said…
Thanks for your feedback. Why don't you tell me what I should've written instead of all blah blah blah?
Sadia said…
It is disheartening to see when terrorists such as Abdul Aziz of LaL-Masjid or Hafiz Saeed of lashker-e-taiba roam around freely and incite the public against the state. The failure of the state to take on these elements is shocking. Such militant leaders provide the ideological grounds for extremist actions, so unless we put a check on them the operations against extremist are likely to fail.

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