Record of criminal cases withdrawn under NRO goes ‘missing’
By Tahir Siddiqui
KARACHI: The Sindh home department has washed its hands of the material and record of the criminal cases withdrawn under the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) saying that the files and summaries are no longer available.
Well-placed sources told Dawn that the home secretary informed Sindh Prosecutor General Shahadat Awan through a letter on June 4 that his office could not produce the details of implementation of the criminal cases revived after the NRO was repealed on Dec 16, 2009 by the Supreme Court.
On May 21, Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry had ordered the home secretary to provide a list of all criminal cases abolished under the NRO in Sindh. The order was issued following a meeting that was also attended by Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court Sarmad Jalal Osmany. The prosecutor general and the member inspection team of the SHC were also present.
The meeting had discussed the progress of the implementation of the criminal cases revived after the NRO was repealed and the prosecutor general had assured the court that a complete report on the progress of all such cases would be provided as soon as possible.
However, the sources said, the home secretary through his letter categorically stated that no material evidence – ie files, applications, orders abd approved summaries of the criminal cases withdrawn under the controversial ordinance – was available with the home department.
They said that only 32 files submitted by retired Justice Roshan Essani to the home department and a few summaries were submitted to the prosecutor general office for the perusal of the apex court.
The sources said that the few summaries available in the home department apparently did not bear any clear orders of the competent authority.
They said that the home department suggested to the prosecutor general that the officials posted at that time, including then home secretary retired Brigadier Ghulam Mohammed Mohtaram, then Advocate General Khawaja Naveed, then prosecutor general Rana Shamim Ahmed and the section officer concerned might be summoned on ‘court’s notice’ to explain the whereabouts of the record pertaining to the withdrawal of the cases under the NRO.
The sources said that the home department also suggested that the then adviser on home affairs, Waseem Akhtar, could also be asked to assist the court “as the whole working about these cases was done while he was the home affair advisor”.
“This office is handicapped to produce before the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan anything beyond what is being submitted,” the home secretary’s letter said.
According to a statement of Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, as many as 3,576 cases were withdrawn under the NRO in Sindh, among them, are included corruption and criminal cases.
The NRO beneficiaries include politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and capitalists.
The controversial ordinance was promulgated by retired General Pervez Musharraf in order to grant amnesty to all those against whom ‘politically-motivatedÂ’ cases were registered between Jan 1, 1986 and Oct 12, 1999.
According to official sources, over 3,500 criminal cases were registered only against different leaders and activists of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and Nawabshah.
These cases were withdrawn as part of the reconciliation policy for which a review board was formed under the supervision of retired Justice Ghous Mohammad. The members of the board had included Law Secretary Ghulam Nabi Shah and the then AG Khwaja Naveed Ahmed.
According to an official list, the highest number of cases were withdrawn against MQM chief Altaf Hussain – ie 72, including 31 on murder and 11 on attempt to murder charges.
Dr Farooq Sattar, the MQM’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly, occupied the second slot. A total of 23 cases were withdrawn against him, including five murder and four attempt to murder cases.
The third biggest beneficiary appeared to be provincial minister Shoaib Bukhari of the MQM against whom 21 cases were withdrawn, including 16 on murder and attempt to murder charges.