Karachi Through Supreme Court Verdict

The Supreme Court in his historic verdict has declared and observed certain issues and in view of the observations has directed the execution to take certain steps to ensure peace in Karachi.

The city of Karachi is the capital of the province of Sindh and undoubtedly the hub of great economical and financial activities. Karachi handles most of the overseas trade of Pakistan and Central Asians countries. It accounts for a large portion of the GDP of Pakistan. Karachi remained bleeding in the year 2010 and 2011. In July 2011 alone as many as 306 innocent people were murdered. The Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the situation and announced the verdict after two weeks lengthy hearing giving opportunity to all stakeholders of Karachi and federal and provincial government representatives. The five-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry includes Mr Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Mr Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Mr Justice Amir Hani Muslim and Mr Justice Ghulam Rabbani. The verdict of the Supreme Court is historical in every respect and tells the untold sorry tale of Karachi.

The Supreme Court verdict opens with special reference to Quran and Sunnah. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and it stands for safety, security and sanctity of human.

The Article 2A of the Constitution says that it is the duty of the state to protect and safeguard all fundamental rights including the right to life and liberty. Life includes all such amenities and facilities which a person born in a free country is entitled to enjoy with dignity. The verdict reminds to the elected representatives of the people.

The chosen representatives, who have acquired authority on behalf of their electors as members of the National Assembly, Senate or Provincial Assemblies as per mandate of their oath, which they take before entering upon office, are bound to bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan. The oath of the office members of the National Assembly and Senate as set out in the Third Schedule provides that the members will perform their functions honestly, to the best of their ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution and law; that they will act in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan and they will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. Therefore, while holding a constitutional office, the chosen representatives of the people have to remain true to their oath and to observe constitutional limits in all circumstances.

The verdict of the Supreme Court reveals about the inefficiency of the police and involvement of political parties in bhatta collection. ‘It seems that the police primarily being responsible to enforce law and order has no intention to deliver. Either they are scared or they are dishonest or absolutely lack the requisite skills. It could be that in the year 1992 operation clean-up was launched against MQM wherein statedly, the police had played an active role, SMC 16/2011 ETC 37 but subsequently, 92 police officers/officials disappeared and up till now there is no clue of their whereabouts nor is it known that by whom and under whose patronage, such persons were abducted and/or killed. Another reason appears to be that police force has been highly politicized, recruitments have been made on political considerations. It came to light during hearing of the case that in police force many police officers have been recruited on political considerations who have managed to occupy such posts for extraneous considerations and senior officers in the rank of SSP’
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The verdict of the Supreme Court reveals about the inefficiency of the police and involvement of political parties in bhatta collection. It seems that the police primarily being responsible to enforce law and order has no intention to deliver.
Besides, the DIG Rangers candidly conceded that bhatta [extortion money] is a normal practice and criminals are collecting bhatta, which every day, runs into at least 10 million rupees and it is being charged from an ordinary shopkeeper, rehriwala (push-cart peddler) up to the top businessman by criminals who have got the backing of the political parties who are the stakeholders. In this behalf, Special Branch of the Police Department had filed a report confidentiality of the same has not been claimed. In this report, a list of chanda/bhatta collectors is available, a perusal whereof indicates that bhatta is being collected invariably by the persons who claim their association with ANP, MQM, PPP Jama’at-e-Islami, Sunni Tehrik, etc. Besides, activities of the organizations banned under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 are also indulging in these activities. It is an admitted fact that street crime like snatching cell phones, purses, etc. from the citizens is rampant in the city and there cannot be two opinions that the citizens, by and large, are suffering filled with fear and confusion. They are so frightened that none of them comes forward even to lodge the report, rather they prefer to pay bhatta or unhesitatingly agree to hand over their valuables during the commission of street crimes. The whole city seems to be in the grip of fear.

According to the verdict ‘It is to be noted that primarily it is the duty of the province through its executive authority to control the law and order situation and ensure implementation of Fundamental Rights of citizens. But primafacie it seems that the provincial authorities have not fulfilled their constitutional duty. Under the Constitution, equally it is the obligation of the Federation to protect every province against internal disturbance.’

The Supreme Court in his historic verdict has declared and observed certain issues and in view of the observations has directed the execution to take certain steps to ensure peace in Karachi.

Declare that recent violence in Karachi represents unimaginable brutalities, bloodshed, kidnapping and throwing away dead bodies and torsos in bags; as illustration, indicating toll of 306 lives in one month; detection of torture cells video of which has been produced; receiving bhatta to strengthen the ranks of one group against the other; grabbing land; drug mafia etc., destroying movable and immovable properties of the citizens, establishes that the Fundamental Rights of the citizens enshrined in Articles 9, 14, 15, 18 and 24 of the Constitution have not been protected/enforced by the Provincial Government/Executive authority and this failure has made the lives and properties of the citizens insecure, inasmuch as Federal Government/Executive has also not protected Province of Sindh against internal disturbance, thus the government of Province of Sindh, on this account, too, failed to carry out functions in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution [Article 148(3)].

It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to act under Article 17 for action against any party violating this Article. The Court will only review such issue at any other appropriate stage or proceeding if then necessary to determine whether the actions of any party are directly or indirectly prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan within the meaning of the Article. The Court will remain, in appropriate proceedings, the ultimate arbiter of this question but will not allow any government to avoid its duty under the law and the Constitution.

Further observe that equal chances should be provided to different communities of Karachi to participate in economic and commercial activities instead of confining the same to different political groups on the basis of parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian, partisan and provincial prejudices.

Further observe that Karachi is full of arms and ammunition of prohibited and non-prohibited bores including licensed and illicit, therefore, Karachi has to be cleansed from all kinds of weapons by adhering to the laws available on the subject, and if need be, by promulgating new legislation. All licensed arms genuinely required for security concerns and personal safety may be retained but these must also be registered with NADRA. All other licenses, where such need cannot be shown, or where multiple licenses have been issued to the same individual (as distinct from security firms) if not justified, or which are used for SMC 16/2011 ETC. 153 unnecessary display at ceremonies or elsewhere for aerial firing should be cancelled after summary and expeditious proceedings in accordance with law.

Fundamental Rights of the citizens enshrined in Articles 9, 14, 15, 18 and 24 of the Constitution have not been protected/enforced by the Provincial Government/Executive authority and this failure has made the lives and properties of the citizens insecure.

We observe that since innocent citizens have lost their lives, number of which comes to 1310 during the current year. Similarly, a good number of citizens have been injured and/or lost their valuable property, both movable and immovable, therefore, Provincial Government/Executive shall constitute a Commission to assess their losses and on its recommendation, SMC 16/2011 ETC. 154 compensation must be paid to the sufferers without partisan consideration, as early as possible.

We direct that there must be no ‘NO GO AREAS’ at all in Karachi. If any is found or credibly reported to the Court the Police and, if required by the Provincial Government, the Rangers shall take strong and decisive action to eliminate it. Moreover, if such an area is proved to exist to the satisfaction of the Court, we may require the IGP himself, and if necessary the DG Rangers also, to personally lead the operation into such areas.

Further direct an independent and a depoliticized investigation agency be deputed to conduct investigation of cases fairly, honestly and without being influenced in any manner. Similarly, the prosecution agency comprising competent prosecutors and the Provincial Government/Executive must provide protection to the witnesses so that they may depose against the perpetrators of crimes without any fear, enabling the courts to decide cases against them in accordance with law.

Further direct that DG NADRA and the IGP will set up a special joint cell with specialized officials and experts along with SMC 16/2011 ETC. 155 sufficient manpower to establish several teams to visit on the spot and identify illegal foreigners so that they may be dealt with strictly in accordance with law after a proper hearing and opportunity to present proof of their citizenship. They should attempt to conclude this exercise preferably in one year.

Further direct that the IGP shall collect the record and facts about the disappearance or elimination of all police and other officials who took part in the Karachi operations of 1992 and 1996 or were witnesses in ethnic or related crimes and present a report to the Court within the next one month also showing whether their families were compensated or not.

Further direct the Provincial Government shall place on record of the Court copies of all judicial inquiries instituted in the matter of law and order in Karachi since 1985. These shall be retained for perusal and for any necessary action or appraisal of the situation at any time in the future.

Finally, it is directed that a Committee be constituted by the Provincial Government/Executive, headed by the Chief Justice of SMC 16/2011 ETC. 156 Sindh High Court, who shall be assisted by the Chief Secretary, the heads of the security agencies, i.e. paramilitary organizations and IG Police, to supervise and ensure that law enforcement agencies take action indiscriminately, across the board against the perpetrators involved in causing disturbances in Karachi. The Chief Justice shall convene the meeting at least once in a month to review the implementation of this judgment and copy of the proceedings shall be transmitted to the Registrar of this Court for our perusal and passing appropriate orders at a later stage, if need be. 132. In view of above declarations/observations, instant Suo Motu proceedings as well as Constitution Petition No. 61 of 2011 under Article 184(3) stand disposed of while parting with the saying of James Bryce that Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.

By: Qayyum Nizami

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