Pak’s toothless criminal justice system seeing terrorists ‘laughing all the way to freedom’

October 30th, 2010 - 6:57 pm ICT by ANI  

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Islamabad, Oct 30 (ANI): Pakistan’s outdated criminal
justice system, coupled with its financial constraints in training police or
buying the forensic equipment needed to adequately investigate and prosecute
terrorism cases, is resulting in a rising tide of acquittals of terrorists.

“Our criminal justice system is weak… It’s rubbish and
needs a lot of improvement,” the Los Angeles Times quoted Mohammed Tayyab,
a Pakistani prosecutor, as saying.

Tayyab, who handled 45 cases in the last year and won just
four, lost some infamous terrorist attack cases, including the truck bombing of
the Marriott Hotel that killed more than 50 people in the Pakistani capital in
September 2008, and the June 2008 car bombing of the Danish Embassy that killed
six people. The latter, Tayyab’s most recent terrorism case, ended in the
acquittal of three men charged with helping plan the attack.

“If we don’t get convictions, there will be no end to
terrorism,” said Sabah Mohyuddin Khan, a lawyer and former Islamabad
judge, adding, “Everyone should be worried about this. Unless killers are
convicted, they’ll have a free hand.”

Legal experts say that militants are walking free because
police investigators lack basic evidence-gathering techniques to build solid
cases. Investigators eager to get terrorism investigations off their desks are
also prone to framing Pakistanis on trumped-up charges. More often than not,
judges see through the frame-ups and acquit the defendants.

Spurred by the June 19 acquittal of a man charged in the
March 2009 siege on a Lahore Police Aacademy, the city’s High Court Chief
Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif said, “It is an alarming state of affairs
that a number of accused have been acquitted by trial courts due to defective
investigation and lack of sufficient evidence and, as such, failure of the
prosecution to prove cases.”

While acts of terrorism typically are complex crimes committed
by highly trained, organized militant groups, the police assigned to
investigate those crimes lack the sophisticated training to probe such cases.

“It’s like fighting a war in the air with a
Cessna,” said former Interior Secretary Ilyas Mohsin, adding, “(The
police) do not have the facilities, the training or the equipment.”

In many cases, key witnesses in terrorism cases do not even
show up in court, fearing retribution from militant groups, as Pakistan lacks
any kind of protection program to safeguard witnesses in terrorism cases.
“We are not that organized,” Mohsin rued.

In the wake of militants striking virtually every week, and
the list of terrorism defendants continuing to grow, some of those on the
judicial front lines underline that Pakistan cannot afford to avoid tackling
the problem any longer.

“To improve,” Tayyab noted, “it will take
time. The problem is that we have no time.” (ANI)

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