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Waseem Akhtar sent to prison on judicial remand

28 July, 2016

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KARACHI: Although police claimed on Wednesday that Waseem Akhtar, a Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader and its Karachi mayor-designate, had “confessed to his involvement” in the May 12, 2007 mayhem before a “joint investigation team”, the legality of the JIT itself and the veracity of his alleged confession are questionable.

While Mr Akhtar and his party insisted that he had made no “confession” or even a disclosure about the May 12 events, police claimed that they had a JIT report in which Mr Akhtar confessed that he planned the violence on the instruction of the party’s high command.

Police not only showed Mr Akhtar arrested in seven cases relating to the May 12 episode, but also leaked to media an alleged investigation report in which he apparently took responsibility for the violent events that occurred in 2007.

Mr Akhtar, who was arrested on July 19 in a case over treatment of “wounded terrorists” and militants at Karachi’s Dr Ziauddin Hospitals, was remanded in police custody on July 21 in two cases regarding “listening to the speeches” of MQM chief Altaf Hussain.

When the remand ended on Tuesday (July 26), the investigation officer produced him before the administrative judge of the antiterrorism court and claimed that Mr Akhtar had also been arrested in seven cases pertaining to attempted murder and arson on May 12, 2007. He requested the court to remand him in police custody.

The court, however, turned down the IO’s request and sent Mr Akhtar to prison on a judicial remand.

While any claim made by police in remand papers is not a confession — an admission of guilt is of no legal import if not recorded before a judicial magistrate — TV channels flashed “breaking news” that Mr Akhtar had “confessed to his involvement in the May 12 mayhem”.

Several TV channels held talk shows on the alleged confession without examining whether he had really done so.

Although the Sindh home department has not notified any joint investigation team comprising officials of intelligence agencies, police and Rangers to interrogate Mr Akhtar, TV channels claimed that they had seen the report of a JIT in which Mr Akhtar — who was adviser to the Sindh chief minister on home affairs in 2007 — admitted that he had planned the May 12 mayhem in the city to sabotage the visit of the then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

A senior police officer told reporters that Mr Akhtar had said “many things” during interrogation, but made no “confessional statement”.

Seven police officials — a DSP, four inspectors and two sub-inspectors of Malir police — investigated the Karachi mayor-designate, but they named themselves a joint investigation team.

According to their report, Mr Akhtar had “confessed” that he planned the May 12, 2007 violence with the help of then in charges of MQM’s Lyari and Gulshan sectors and on the directives of the ‘party high command’.

The report went on to read that the sole purpose was “to prevent any rally being taken to receive the then deposed chief justice of Pakistan at Karachi airport”.

The Muttahida said that its mayoral nominee had not given any ‘confessional statement’ about the May 12 happenings in police custody.

At a press conference, senior MQM leader Kanwar Naveed Jameel read out a hand-written note from Mr Akhtar in which he denied and condemned “all false and concocted” stories claiming that he had taken responsibility for the May 12 violence.

The letter, which Mr Akhtar gave to his lawyers during a meeting at the Karachi central prison on Wednesday, read: “I have not made any new disclosures or given a confessional statement with regard to the May 12 [incidents]. I repeated my previous statements that there should be an open inquiry by the superior judiciary.”

Mr Akhtar requested all media houses to verify any “negative news” about him before airing it. Mr Jameel said that the “fake and fabricated” investigation report made by certain police officials was solely aimed at defaming Waseem Akhtar. “He remains the MQM’s candidate for the office of Karachi mayor and will soon be honorably acquitted in all cases.”

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