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The Express Tribune Editorial 14 February 2020

Hafiz Saeed’s sentence


The decision is finally in. Hafiz Saeed will be going to jail. An anti-terrorism court in Lahore has sentenced the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) head to five and a half years in prison on each of two charges relating to terror-financing. He was also fined the less remarkable amounts of Rs15,000 in each case. One of his close aides also received the same sentences on the same charges. However, the time already served under house arrest will also be counted towards that prison term under Section 382-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Even then, the conviction provides heartening proof of Pakistan’s commitment to prosecuting terrorists and their facilitators.
Although some critics, especially those across the border in India, will try to accuse Pakistan of not going after Saeed on more serious charges, the fact remains that the cases that were built against Saeed were strong. Meanwhile, cases involving more serious charges have proven harder to make, in no small part due to India’s refusal to cooperate with Pakistan in building them.
The two charges against Saeed were under section 11-F(2) and 11-N of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which relate to membership of a proscribed organisation and fundraising and money-laundering for the purpose of terrorism, respectively. The ruling is also proof that JuD was financing Lashkar-e-Taiba’s terrorist activities using funds collected through various charity fronts including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust. Most of these charities were banned in April last year after the Counter-Terrorism Department’s investigations established their links with Saeed and his comrades.
The investigations were at least partly prompted by Pakistan’s grey-listing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for failure to combat terror financing. Soon after the FATF decision, Pakistan banned JuD and its Falah-e-Insanyat Foundation charity to partially address the international body’s concerns. Around 200 seminaries and hundreds of other assets associated with JuD and its linked groups were also seized. It was the first time the startling size of the terrorist outfit became widely known. We can only hope that others are never allowed to grow this way.


Faulty probes


Several child abuse cases in recent years have rocked the country to its core. Amid the outpouring of emotions, some have angrily called for bringing back the death penalty for the culprits. Others have gone a step further demanding public hanging for the culprits to serve as some form of deterrent against these heinous acts. Child sexual abuse is an unfortunate reality of our society and we have struggled to address it adequately at multiple levels. Moved mainly by a recent case of abuse, parliament has responded swiftly, passing the Zainab Alert Bill that is meant to spread alerts in the hopes of saving our children. There have been cries from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) as well to publicly hang culprits after a case in Nowshera last month where a young child was raped and brutally murdered. Following recommendations from the province’s assembly, the National Assembly passed a resolution calling for public hanging.
However, a report by the police in K-P has offered new light on where some of the failings of the system may lie. The report, about the number of child abuse cases being reported, the suspects arrested in them and their prosecution status, is extremely shocking. Prepared by the police, the report shows that there is a whopping acquittal rate of over 80%. And this has been a general theme for the past five years at least. The officer, who has presented the report before his superiors, states that some of the reasons for a shockingly-low conviction rates are poor investigation and evidence-collection techniques. To put it simply, cops have a hard time proving a crime committed by a particular suspect. The failings of our prosecution system are well documented. It is not entirely uncommon to find wrongful convictions, even in death penalty cases. We may clamour for public hanging, but first, we must guarantee that we are convicting the true culprits by proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


KCR revival


One of the ironies surrounding the long talked-about revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) is that it became a topic of discussion in government circles, the media and at the popular level before the local trains completely ceased operating in 1999. The KCR started operations in 1964 and served commuters satisfactorily till early 1980s. It came to a complete stop sometimes in 1999 ostensibly because many wagons came out on the roads. The defunct Karachi Transport Corporation unsuccessfully introduced one ‘ingenious idea’ after another to tackle the issue of commute in the sprawling city. Later some private omnibuses started plying the roads, and they too gradually disappeared. For the past several years, Karachi has been without a mass transit system.
The incumbent CJP is taking a keen interest in the revival of the KCR. It is through his efforts that much of the KCR land that had been encroached upon has been cleared. On Wednesday, during the hearing of a petition in Islamabad pertaining to losses suffered by the Pakistan Railways, Justice Ahmed told Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to restore the KCR within three months. The minister claimed 85% encroachments on KCR land had been cleared, and on Tuesday night a three-storey building constructed on KCR land was demolished. The demolition has rendered occupants of the building homeless. The homeless people say they had invested their life savings to get their apartments. This shows the frightening level of corruption prevailing in our society and the incredible gullibility of the people. The need for greed remains a big question.
The CJP told the minister not to hand over the KCR to the Sindh government as it would meet the same fate as road transport. We are hopeful that the CJP’s efforts towards an early revival of KCR would give the desired results.
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