Express Tribune’s Jailbreak Spin Helps Nothing

Gilgit District Jail

Militant jailbreaks are not new, but there was something unique about the way that Express Tribune reported the recent escape from Gilgit District Jail. The brazen escape, in which four jihadis managed to break free, has been widely reported as having been carried out with the help of the very men who were supposed to be guarding the hardened terrorists. On 1st March, Dawn reported that Gilgit-Baltistan police chief Zaffar Iqbal Awan ‘conceded that the jailbreak attempt by four prisoners had been assisted by some members of the security staff within the prison’.

Seven jail staff and three religious leaders were immediately arrested on suspicion of aiding the terrorists escape, and the investigation into how the escape could have happened has revealed that security officials at the jail had been recruited by the terrorists, and that ‘companions of the suspects were also in contact with jail officials and tried to take care of their “necessities”.’

Coming during same time as reports of arrest of a Punjab constable attending jihadi training camp in Afghanistan, the entire facts of the case points to a terrifying reality in which terrorists are infiltrating the police forces. So how does Express Tribune report the story? As evidence of success of military courts.

The fear of being sentenced to death by a military court is what spurred two suspects charged with the Nanga Parbat basecamp massacre, along with two other prisoners, to risk a jailbreak in Gilgit, investigators said on Sunday.

Even the headline, ‘Running Scared’, gives the impression that the terrorists were so afraid of their fate at the hands of security forces that they were willing to risk everything. However this ignores the facts. The terrorists were not attempting a panicked and desperate escape, they were leaving with the help of the very guards who were supposed to be keeping them under lock and key.

Express Tribune’s report gives the feeling that the event involved terrified militants and fearless security forces who launched a manhunt that killed one and captured another. The reality is that half of the terrorists escaped unharmed, and at least 10 jail personnel have been arrested in connection with helping them.

I have written before that premature declarations of victory can undermine success. Now is not the time to hide the truth. If we are going to defeat terrorism, we must face the reality, not cover it up.

Body of Hindu exhumed and desecrated after Imam incited a mob to remove it from a graveyard

AHRC-UAC-133-2013.02

Express Tribune reports that on plea that a Hindu can not be buried in a Muslim graveyard, a mob of people dug up the body of a Dalit man from Haji Faqeer graveyard in Badin district on Saturday and left it lying in the elements for hours while the man’s grieving family were intimidated and the police stood by doing nothing.

Asian Human Rights Commission has issued an urgent appeal on the matter requesting individuals to send letters to Prime Minister, Federal Law Minister and other government officials calling on them to provide protection to the Hindu families and journalists of the district Badin and to urge them to prosecute the high officials of the police from Badin for not stopping such ugly action and for not intervening against the attackers as well as for not arresting them.

It should also be noted that AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief calling for his intervention into this matter.

 

Why Can’t We Keep Terrorists In Jail?

Get out of jail free

A new report in a British newspaper terms Pakistan ‘incapable’ of prosecuting terrorists. The report makes this claim based on a new US State Department report, so it is sure to be dismissed as evidence of American anti-Pakistan propaganda. But we should take this claim seriously, not because the Americans are saying it, but because of who else is.

I wrote last year about our topsy-turvy justice system in which terrorists have more rights than honest citizens. I wrote this piece after a report in Daily Times found that 75 per cent of anti-terrorism cases were acquitted.

Whenever there’s an acquittal, like the revolving door that Hafiz Saeed uses to get in and out of jail, militant sympathisers say, ‘if there was evidence, they would have convicted so he must be innocent’. In a properly functioning judiciary, this would be true. But anyone who believes that Pakistan has a properly functioning judiciary probably lives in UK or Dubai and has never actually had to deal with Pakistani courts.

Just to play the ‘devils advocate’, let’s assume they are right. The fact that there are 75 per cent acquittals means that one of two institutions is failing badly – either the courts or the police. If the courts are properly functioning and all these innocents are being brought up on terrorism charges with no evidence, why are the police arresting the wrong people? And what can we do to improve the police competencies so that they start arresting the right ones?

But let’s also consider the possibility that the police are arresting the right people, and that revolving doors for terrorists are built into the courts. I suggest that we consider this not because the US State Department says it’s a problem, but because China does. As I noted before, Chinese media reports that militants are getting acquittals by threatening witnesses, the police and courts themselves.

Militants groups in Pakistan are being proven so strong that they manage the acquittal of their colleagues from cases and proceedings against them in courts by threatening the families of judges, witnesses and police officers, local media reported on Tuesday.

and

“This is a common practice in Pakistan, not only Taliban even small criminal groups use these tricks to get their friends free from the courts, when there is no proof or witness, the court will have to free them,” said Khalid Mahmood, a former police office in Punjab Province.

“Now in some cases, judges’ names are kept secret and they hear the case proceeding in jail with covered faces to avoid any recognition by the accused,” Khalid told Xinhua.

Xinhua is China’s official state media which represents the official line of the Chinese government.

I said last year that for honest citizens who only want to get some small amount of justice in their lives, the wait can be forever. For militants, though, it is always a speedy trial and ‘get out of jail free’. What kind of a topsy-turvy legal system is it that gives more rights to terrorists than to honest citizens?

It’s time to stop the revolving doors that spin terrorists in and out of the courts. Not because America says so or China says so, but because our inability or unwillingness to prosecute terrorists results in the deaths of innocent people. Seal the revolving door. No more excuses.