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Justice Eludes Victims of 2009 Ashura Bombings As Suspects Still At Large

Victims of the 2009 Ashura bombings have still not received justice as law enforcement authorities and police have failed to re-arrest the three suspects involved in the attacks.

The suspects belonged to the militant group, Jundullah, and had escaped from custody following their arrest. They were wanted for the bombing of an Ashura procession at M.A.Jinnah Road in Karachi on December 28, 2009, which killed more than 45 people.

The four suspects said to have been involved in the bombing were arrested in January 2010 and were booked in four cases related to attacks on Muharram processions in 2009 in Karachi.

According to a report in Dawn, a judicial staffer at an anti-terrorism court stated, “The four cases pertaining to the targeted attacks on the mourning processions, including the one on the main Ashura procession, remain shelved in the court’s custody since October 2010 for want of suspects.”

The four suspects were identified by witnesses during an identification parade before a judicial magistrate at the pre-trial stage of the cases.

However, the suspects managed to free themselves from police custody in June 2010. In a gun attack led by the suspects’ accomplices while a case against them registered by the Anti-Car Lifting Cell was being heard, the suspects managed to escape from the court. One of the suspects was killed whilst trying to escape.

Officials informed media that following the escape of the suspects, the court had kept the cases ‘dormant’. However, they added that law enforcement agencies have still not made any progress with regard to arresting the suspects, who have been free for more than a decade. “There is no progress in the cases till the day and the (cases) files remain shelved gathering dust,” the official said.

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Meanwhile, the trial court had issued life warrants for the arrest of the three suspects in October of 2010, ordering police to produce the suspects in courts ‘as soon as possible’.

Moreover, the suspects were tried in the city courts without the necessary security arrangements even though the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of police had said they were high-profile criminals. It is customary for hardened criminals to be tried under strict security, which lacked in this case.

Legal experts argue that such long periods of suspension in high-profile cases benefit the accused as prosecution’s witnesses might go underground or change their residence. Experts also say that it becomes hard for a witness to remember the exact details and it is also difficult for investigation officers to maintain case property and police files.

The Arrest Of The Suspects

The SIU said that the suspected militants were arrested following a shootout on Hawkesbay Road in 2010. Following their arrest, the suspects confessed to have carried out the attacks on the Muharram processions.

They were charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. Two of the suspects, Murtaza and Saqib, were booked for massacring over 45 people and wounding 100 others in the bomb attack on the main Ashura procession. They were also booked for a blast in Paposh Nagar on a Muharram procession which had occurred on December 26, 2009 and had injured 13 people.

The rest of the suspects were charged with a blast targeting another Muharram procession in Qasba Colony on December 27, 2009.

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