KARACHI – The Supreme Court observed on Wednesday that every professional is paying extortion money in Karachi and laws are being framed only to serve the influential people.
A five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Jamali and including Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Justice Amir Hani Muslim and Justice Gulzar Ahmed heard the case.
At the onset of the hearing, the bench expressed displeasure over all high-ranking police officers’ presence in the court, ordering the SHOs to go to their respective areas. The bench observed that the police had failed to safeguard the citizens and later adjourned the case until today (Thursday).
The court asked Sindh Advocate General Abdul Fattah Malik to tell the court as to how the provincial government has planned curbing violence in the city. “Score of today’s killings is six,” the AG replied tersely. Justice Usmani reprimanded him over his reply and remarked: “Is loss of people’s life mere scoring? Is it a matter of sixes and fours?”
The bench inquired of Sindh Rangers DG Maj-General Rizwan Akhtar as to what measures had been taken to provide protection to the city’s businessmen. Justice Jamali said the extortion was so prevalent that groups had divided regions amongst themselves. “No-go areas exist on political basis. One political worker cannot go to another’s territory. This year more strikes and extortion incidents occurred. The traders are being targeted. No trader or industrialist is safe. Hardly there is one who is not paying extortion money.”
The bench ordered that the government should abolish the formation of such groups and areas on the basis of language. The advocate-general said it was not possible to form new groupings in the city. Attorney General Irfan Qadir said that there was a procedure available which could abolish the formation of such groupings. He added that the procedure can be successfully employed after the census.
The bench asked DG Rangers if there was any pressure on him from any quarters. He denied there was any pressure on him, adding that the police and Rangers conducted joint operations independently. The DG Rangers, when questioned by Justice Anwar Zaher Jamali, told the court: “We have deployed additional force for the morning and evening and immediate action is being taken on information about criminals.” Justice Amir Hani Muslim intervened: “You catch the criminals and hand them over to the police; (but) neither you can register a report nor present the charge sheet; this gives them a way out.”
On one occasion, Justice Arif Khilji, addressing the Sindh IG, said that unfortunately inept people are recruited everywhere – meritorious persons do not get a chance. The Sindh IG told the court that a police officer politically strong would not obey the orders – “may be that officer can get you transferred”.
Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali inquired whether the major reason of failure is political intervention and how many police officers possess confirmed political support. The Sindh IG replied that he has directed for preparing the service book of all the officers within a week.
Justice Khilji Arif Hussain said that instead of issuing arms licences to the citizens, the police should fulfil its responsibility of protecting the citizens. Justice Jamali said the quota of issuance of weapons – 200 licences to each MPA and 300 to each MNA – is corruption, and these people want to get their vote bank strengthened by issuing licences. He said that elected representatives and ministers facilitate the issuing of arms licences in order to increase their vote bank.
Justice Jamali said even certain criminals who were wanted in murder cases were issued arms licences. “Even the persons accused of murdering 8 to 10 persons have also been issued licences for weapons,” he said, adding that there was no check and balance. Additional Home Secretary Wasim Ahmad told the court that chief minister’s weapon quota is unlimited.
Justice Anwar said that thousands of weapons holders have by now died, but their licences are under use. “Issue advertisements for registering weapons licences; the licences not registered in six month should be cancelled or the holders should be imposed penalty,” he ordered. The additional home secretary recommended that the government should, in collaboration with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), carry out an assessment of the arms licences.
Also during the hearing, Sindh Advocate-General said arms were being brought to Karachi from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, adding that people were being killed on the basis of language they spoke and other cultural affiliations. Inspector General Sindh Mushtaq Shah told the court that 1,897 people had been killed in the city since January 2012. Justice Osmany said there was no writ of the government in the city.
When Waseem Ahmed said the city’s law and order situation had improved recently, Justice Hussain asked how the situation had improved when newspapers had been on a daily basis reporting on the violence prevalent in the city. Justice Khilji Arif addressing the additional chief secretary said that 1897 persons died in the current year. “How can you say that law and order situation is better? It is the duty of the police to provide security to the citizens; you have failed in this; it is not the duty of the citizen to obtain weapon and protect themselves.”
Justice Amir Hani asked the additional chief secretary to accept “you yourself are so weak that you do not want to control it; if your police get right, then the matter could be resolved”.
Justice Jamali said that protection was only being provided to influential individuals. He said the police were operating at the behest of politicians, adding that officials were more loyal to political parties than to their own institution.
Earlier on Tuesday, the bench had rejected the Sindh government’s progress report on implementation of the apex court’s order in the suo moto case on Karachi killings. The bench had observed that the city’s security situation would have been much better and the court would not have had to rehear the case if its order had been implemented in letter and spirit. The bench had also expressed its displeasure over the delayed in submission of the report.