Sloppy investigations help criminals avert conviction


Karachi: Out of the total cases in the dockets of all nine anti-terrorism courts in Karachi since September 2013, when the Sindh Police and Rangers launched their much-talked-about targeted operation against criminals and terrorists, convictions have been achieved in only 6.9% of these cases.

According to the data provided by the Sindh Police to track progress of the crackdown on criminals, 2,571suspects were tried in all nine anti-terrorism courts, five of which were set up in the second half of 2014; convictions were achieved in only 179 cases.

Earlier in January, a notorious extortionist, Waseem Beater was acquitted by the anti-terrorism court when charges against him could not be proved before the judge who conferred upon former the ‘benefit of doubt’.

Similarly, the data reveals that since September 2013, a total of 23,396 cases have been framed in the courts out of which convictions were achieved in only 1,454 cases — a paltry 6.2%.

Even high-profile cases of martyred police officials, such as SP Aslam Khan, fail to reach a conclusion. While talking to News Lens Pakistan, his widow Noreen Aslam said that it had been a year after his death but the investigations seemed to have reached nowhere.

In the line of fire

Anti-Terrorism Court’s Special Public Prosecutor, Abdul Maroof has been involved in a number of high-profile cases including the trial for murder of journalist Wali Babar. After two bomb attacks on his home and the murder of his brother in Jehlum, he has now left the country to save his life. He attributes the lack of convictions in Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATC) to the fear of backlash.

“Other prosecutors who worked with me and I were threatened every other day by criminals even in the front of the judges,” Maroof said. “I repeatedly requested the Home Department to provide security to ATC prosecutors who were taking up many cases against the accused ones from Tehreek-e-Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.”

He said yielding to such threats investigation officers would often misquote or omit the details from the charge-sheets against the suspects linked with powerful political groups or militant organizations. “For instance, if the suspect was wearing a red shirt, the charge-sheet would describe it as white or black one.”

Ineffective policing

On the other hand, the larger chunk of cases suffered from defective policing and faulty methods of evidence collection by police officers.

Though the Sindh Police had a dedicated Forensics Division but it was badly understaffed, DSP Forensics, Faraj Bukhari told News Lens Pakistan.

“Our police officers still haven’t understood how important it is to deliver evidence to us within the stipulated time, which is 24 hours, otherwise it becomes inadmissible in the court,” he said. “If the evidence is submitted later than that, the case against the accused is weakened on the grounds of benefit of doubt.”

Another problem, Bukhari said, was that the most of investigation officers would not visit the crimes spot, relying mainly on the documents made available to them, which would often be incomplete and inaccurate.

He said just a couple of years ago, evidence collection had to be the responsibility of the Forensics Department. “A Crime Scene Unit visited the site and collected evidence with modern equipment,” he added. “However, with only one unit at our disposal and five to six murders a day, it becomes impossible to cover them all.”

To make things easier, in 2013, separate Crime Scene Units were set up and deputed to zonal police chiefs.

However, most of DIGs are too busy to actively look into the evidence gathered by Crime Scene Units (CSU), said DIG South, Abdul Khalique Shaikh. But, in the previous year, the Sindh Police had sought the help of foreign organizations to train police officers in evidence collection and examination of crime scenes.

An officer, ASI Imran deputed at CSU South, said his unit visited at least two crime scenes a day but since it was a relatively posh area the cases would be related to thefts and robberies.

Karachi Police Surgeon, Jalil Qadir told News Lens Pakistan that circumstantial evidence was the key to prove charges against the criminals. However, usually, by the time the case was reported it would become ineffective or was lost. “For example, in cases of rape, families and women usually approach the police station when they should immediately come to the hospital so that they may be medically examined and DNA evidence be collected. During the time when they are referred by the police to a government hospital for medical examination, which can further take up to two days, the DNA evidence is lost.”

The figures of rape convictions are also quite disturbing. Of the 487 rape cases registered at various police stations in Karachi, only 67 have been tried in courts and only 11 men have been convicted, and that too after the four years of crime committed.

Another problem was that policemen possessed very poor knowledge about penal laws, said DSP Bukhari. It is quite a common practice that an Investigation Officer would let suspect go free, who could be detained for the possession of illegal weapon, because former would be more interested in pinning a murder charge without any grounds.

Human rights activist and lawyer, Zia Awan also agreed on this issue. “Most of the policemen have not yet read the booklet called Pakistan Penal Code. They work blindly,” he said.

However, DIG south; Abdul Khalique Shaikh held that only 32,000 policemen were working for the protection of 20 million people of Karachi. Duty timings being 12 hours a day, investigation often took a back seat while security and maintaining law and order becoming the first preference of policemen.


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