In 2014, the ATC Rawalpindi acquitted Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) chief Malik Ishaq from three cases of terrorism for want of evidence
Since 2007, over 2,000 alleged terrorists, who have been accused of having been involved in high profile terrorism cases, have been freed by the Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATCs) of the country. And if the security agencies are to be believed, a large number of them have rejoined terrorist outfits. Just take 2014.
Ishaq was facing three charges under separate FIRs registered under sections 9 and 11 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (which deal with whipping up sectarian hatred) and section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO).
Ishaq has earlier faced charges of killing more than 100 people, most of them Shia, and was also accused of involvement in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore on March 2009.
The courts traditionally end up releasing the accused – for a number of reasons that vary from a weak case based on poor investigative facilities and skills of the police to the fact that terrorist organisations are able to intimidate the lawyers and judges.
Last year, the ATC acquitted Rana Faqir, who was accused of attacking the convoy of former president retired General Pervez Musharraf in 2001.
Those accused of targeting a bus of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in 2007 were also released two years ago.
The same year, the courts also acquitted Mohammad Ilyas alias Qari Jamil and Mohammad Rizwan alias Shamsul Haq, who were accused of attacking the Danish embassy, and killing a serving army general, surgeon general Mushtaq Baig.
It is noteworthy that in what was a rare occurrence, the ATC had convicted those accused of planning (and not carrying out) an attack on the Army House in 2008; life imprisonment was awarded to six - Zafar Ali, Intikhab Abbasi, Abid Khan, Mohammad Ishaq, Mohammad Kabeer and Qamar Zaman in 2010.
Laeeq Swati, who has represented terrorist suspects in a number of cases, said that the cases are based on “flawed and false investigation”.