While speaking on the floor of Sindh Assembly, the provincial Information Minister, Sharjeel Memon said the “Judiciary is too afraid to rule against culprits”.
Those sort of burning statements usually come from the leaders and workers of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) due to the fact that, during its past tenure, PPP didn’t enjoy a good working relationship with the judiciary. It went to the extent that in the case of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani was convicted by the Apex Court for contempt of Court and he was removed from his office.
Truth Tracker made several phone calls to Sharjeel Memon in order to confirm his statement, but he didn’t respond.
Regarding Mr. Memon’s statement, Truth Tracker also tried to contact Waqar Mehdi, the Information Secretary for PPP Sindh, but he refused to respond, saying only that the comment reflected Sharjeel Memon’s personal observation and that he would not comment on that.
Zhora Yousaf, Chairperson for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), told Truth Tracker in a telephone interview that “It has been observed that the acquittal of militants is on the high, and simply for the reason that the law enforcement agencies failed to produce enough evidence against the terrorists. Judges are human too and they (Judges and their families) are in a state of fear because of terrorism and militancy.”
She continued saying, “In Mumtaz Qadri’s case (assassin of Salman Taseer Governor Punjab) the judge Syed Pervez Ali Shah who sentenced Mumtaz Qadri went on a self-imposed exile along with his family, fearing he would be killed too. The attack on Sindh High Court Justice Maqbool Baqir had placed the judiciary under more pressure.” She concluded saying that such statements were based on the PPP government’s experience with the Supreme Court of Pakistan during its last tenure.
When Truth tracker contacted Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui, the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, by phone, he said “These kinds of statements are meaningless and have solely political motives. In Pakistan, there is no witness protection law and that is the reason people are scared to become witness against criminals or terrorists. Besides that, law enforcement agencies have become corrupt and politicized and that is the reason for lack of evidence in the trial courts against culprits. We need to understand, Judges don’t investigate, and it is the prime responsibility of law enforcement agencies to bring evidence against terrorists”.
By referring to Columbia’s judicial system, Siddiqui said, “Their witness program is so strong that culprits never get away easily. In Columbia, no one can see, meet or know the identity of the witness. A similar amendments needs to be introduced in Pakistan for authentic and rapid decisions against culprits. Besides that, the Government should provide standard security arrangements for Judges as well”.
The view of Sahadat Awan, Prosecutor General Sindh, is different from the statement of Sharjeel Memon. Awan said that Pakistani courts’ conviction rate had almost increased to 400% as compared to 6.8% in 2008. The anti-terrorist courts (ATC) did not acquit a large number of terrorists, as claimed by some. However, it was not the job of court or prosecutor to conduct investigation – acquittals happened when the investigation was weak, witness was hostile or the evidences were insufficient for conviction.
After talking to legal experts and independent sources, Truth tracker finds Sharjeel Memon’s statement to be mostly false.
As per the law, without evidence, culprits can get away, but collecting evidence is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies not judges. There is no evidence that judges are afraid of convicting culprits.