Law enforcement agencies have so far found no clue to the three takfiri Jundullah militants who were involved in the 2009 Ashura bombing cases in Karachi despite the passage of over seven years after their escape from the city courts.
The files of four cases pertaining to the targeted attacks on mourning processions, including the devastating bomb blast that ripped through the main Ashura procession killing more than 45 Shia Muslims on M.A. Jinnah Road in December 2009, have been gathering dust in an antiterrorism court as police and other special investigation units remained unable to trace the terrorists who fled the courts.
Murtaza alias Shakil, Mohammad Saqib Farooqui, Wazir Mohammad and Murad Shah, said to be associated with banned Deobandi terrorist outfit Jundullah, were arrested in January 2010 and booked in the four cases pertaining to a series of attacks on Muharram processions. But they were got freed from police custody by their accomplices after a gun attack on the city courts premises on June 20, 2010. One of the four suspects, Murad Shah, was killed while fleeing, but his accomplices were never caught again.
Following the escape, the police informed the anti-terrorism court (ATC-III) about it. Abating the legal proceedings in all the cases, the trial court issued life warrants for the arrest of the three suspects and directed the police to produce them in court as soon as possible. While the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of police said they were high-profile criminals associated with the proscribed Jundullah, the suspects were not tried in court inside the prison and the jail authorities sent them to the city courts without making proper security arrangements.
It is the responsibility of investigating officers to ask or recommend the home department through a letter to notify jail trial of hardened criminals in high-profile cases or if the jail authorities had insufficient security arrangement to take them to courts.
Legal experts believed that prolonged suspension of the proceeding in such high-profile cases always benefited the accused party as prosecution witnesses might change their residence or go underground for fear. Also, it is hard for a witness to remember the exact evidence for years while it is also a difficult task for the investigating officers to maintain the case property, police files and stay in touch with their witnesses.
The SIU said that the suspected militants were arrested after a shoot-out on Hawkesbay Road on Jan 23, 2010 and claimed that they confessed to having carried out the attacks on the Muharram processions.
They were charge-sheeted under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and their cases were sent to the ATC-III for trial and the court had supplied copies of documents to the suspects under Section 265-C of the criminal procedure code. However, they escaped before their indictment.
Murtaza and Saqib were booked for killing over 45 people and wounding about 100 others in the bomb attack on the main Ashura procession on Dec 28, 2009. The duo were also charge-sheeted in the Paposh Nagar blast that took place on Dec 26, 2009 (8th of Muharram) when a Muharram procession was passing by and it left 13 people wounded.
Murad Shah along with his absconding accomplices Haider, Hasnain and Sajid was charge-sheeted in a case pertaining to a low-intensity blast that targeted a 9th Muharram procession in Qasba Colony on Dec 27, 2009.
Besides, the four suspects were also booked in a case under Sections 4/5 of the Explosive Substance Act, 1908 read with Section 7 of the ATA at the Sir Syed police station, as the police claimed to have recovered explosive material on a lead provided by them.