Not a single terrorist or extremist has faced punishment in Pakistan despite the fact that several thousand people have lost their lives in terror-related incidents in the country in the past couple of years.
What is more worrisome, say observers, is that the principal accused in different cases have been either acquitted or granted bail, which creates a wave of fear and panic amongst those who were targeted. Part of the problem, say observers, are the poor investigation methods used by the law enforcement agencies because of which courts are forces to acquit most suspects.
Another issue, says human rights lawyer Hina Jilani is the lack of honesty within the system. “The state does not want to prosecute certain types of criminals and that is why a weak case is made against them.”
Interior minister Rehman Malik disclosed recently that since the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, 606 terrorists were arrested and by now 352 have been released mostly due to lack of evidence.
Malik also said that during this three-year period, there were 2,500 incidents of terrorism, in which 3,100 people lost their lives. In Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, during these three years 475 persons accused of terrorism were arrested but 300 released.
The recent case of Malik Ishaq, a Lashkar-i-Jhangvi activist, is an eye-opener. Arrested by security agencies in 1997 from Faisalabad, Ishaq was a terrorist in the mould of his mentor Riaz Basra and had 44 cases against him, including murder and terrorism. This month, he was acquitted in 34 cases while in the rest he was granted bail.
As his supporters threw rose petals and garlanded him on his exit from jail, others shuddered as the man accused of killing was again walking the streets.
Ishaq’s case is not unique. This is a trend now in Pakistan where those accused of the most heinous crimes walk out on bail. In other instances, the charges are reduced.