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Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists

Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists

THE PROSECUTORS WORKED

THE PROSECUTORS WORKED IN PITIFUL OFFICES WITHNO COMPUTERS, NO PHONES, NOT EVEN LIGHT BULBS,AND CERTAINLY NO PROTECTION.won elections in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination,the two were appointed prosecutors in theanti-terrorism court in Karachi.Immediately they faced some of the toughest cases,prosecuting Islamic terrorists who taunted them incourt: “Don’t you care about your life?” “You wantto see your families dead?” They pleaded with thegovernment for more protection. They worked in pitifuloffices with no copy machines, no computers, nophones, not even light bulbs, and certainly no protection.In 2010 they brought Time magazine to theirrundown offices and explained that the governmentwas obviously more interested in fighting terrorismthrough military means—and often through extrajudicialkillings—than through the courts.Nevertheless, they managed to prosecute manycases and, perhaps as important, to cultivate a transparentrelationship with the Karachi press corps. “Weinvited all the journalists to the anti-terrorism courtalong with their cameras. Before us, journalists wereprohibited, but we were political activists for the restorationof democracy as well as the judiciary,” Burirotold me when I met them in New York.The prosecutors were put to the test in 2011 with thehighly publicized murder trial of six members of thePakistan Rangers, a paramilitary security force overseenby the Interior Ministry. It was, perhaps, the prosecutors’most successful case, but it was one that had severeconsequences for their future. On June 8, 2011, justa month after the U.S. raid in Abbottabad that killedOsama bin Laden, six Rangers in Karachi were capturedon video shooting Syed Sarfaraz Shah, an unarmed civilian,at close range as he pleaded for his life in a publicpark named after Benazir Bhutto in the Clifton neighborhood.The video shows a civilian dragging Shah infront of the Rangers who then shoot him. It shows themall standing around as Shah begs for help, bleeding intounconsciousness. Shah later died of his wounds.The video was broadcast on Pakistani televisionstations and went viral, causing an outcry throughoutPakistan. Chief Justice Chaudhry said he couldn’tsleep. He called the director general of the Rangersand the inspector general of police and removed themfrom their posts. “They were reluctant to register thecase against the Rangers,” Buriro said. Interior MinisterMalik, whose ministry oversaw the Rangers, issueda quick statement defending the men and saying thatthe young Shah had been armed with a pistol and wascaught trying to rob someone.The case nevertheless was transferred from theHigh Court to the anti-terrorism court, and theprosecutor general assigned it to Buriro and Mirza. Bythen the Karachi press corps had taken to the streetsto demand justice because Shah was the brother of acolleague, Samaa TV crime reporter Syed Salik Shah.What’s more, the man who caught the episode onvideo was also a journalist, Abdul Salam Soomro, acameraman for Awaz Television. He was now underthreat and being pressured to pronounce his video afake. Forced to leave Awaz, he went into hiding, movingfrom one house to the next.At that moment, Imtiaz Faran, the president of the KarachiPress Club, invited the two prosecutors to discussthe case. “The journalists were convinced they’d neverget justice from the court, that the prosecutors couldnever stand against the version of events the governmentwas presenting,” Buriro recalled. “They told us if we didthis in the courts we would face dire consequences.”Here is Buriro’s version of what happened: “SyedSalik Shah was working as a crime reporter for SamaaTV, exposing illegal activities of the police and Rangers.All these parks have a certain area where you park yourcar.” As Karachiites will tell you, the car parks are dividedamong various extortionists—including Rangersand political parties—who make money charging fees.“Salik was trying to investigate and report that. Hisbrother, Syed Sarfaraz Shah, happened to go to the parkin the evening when an agent of the Rangers was collectingthese illegal parking fees. When Shah interferedwith the agent—asking him, why are you taking illegalfees?—a dispute erupted and the agent called over theRangers.” In Shah’s pocket, they found the business cardof his journalist brother, the prosecutor said.The Rangers shot Shah without warning, Burirosaid, and to cover their tracks filed what is known asa First Information Report. The report stated that theRangers encountered Shah “committing dacoity”—stealing—“and possessing illicit arms without anylicense or authority.”A Joint Investigation Team, composed of civilian andmilitary intelligence bodies, concluded in its reportthat the Rangers were innocent, that Shah was a thief,and that the case should be referred back to the regularcourts. “The investigating officer of the case pressuredme in the presence of journalists to submit the same incourt, but I vehemently opposed the application in opencourt and it was dismissed,” Buriro said. The director inspectorgeneral, accompanied by an entourage of seniorpolice officials, soon arrived at the prosecutor’s office topress the demand. “Why don’t you submit this report14 Committee to Protect Journalists

POLICE OFFICERS ARE AFRAID. THOSE WHO WANT TO DO THEIRJOBS ARE THWARTED OR, AS IN THE BABAR CASE, KILLED.to the court?’ Buriro recalled the official as shouting. “Ireplied: ‘I will never submit this report because I haveto follow the law. I am not your subordinate. This reporthas been made to save the Rangers in this case.’” Thedirector inspector general “then threatened the courtreporters from Dunya TV and Dawn. And he told me,‘You will no longer be in your position. You are goingagainst the government and the agencies so be careful oryou will face dire consequences in future.’”Buriro decided just to do his job. He examined20 witnesses including Soomro, who had filmed themurder. Buriro produced the video in open court.He cross-examined the defendants’ witness, an ISIcolonel. The prosecutors withstood anonymous phonethreats; they turned down bribes to let the case returnto the regular courts, where it would fade away. Thesecurity apparatus was especially furious that uniformedmen were being tried in the anti-terrorismcourt. “During the process of the case I was threatenedby the naval agencies. I was threatened by the ISI,”Buriro said. The prosecutors were excoriated for notdamaging evidence in the case as instructed.The year 2011 was a bad one for military officials.They’d taken a blow not only from the United Statesbut also from the Pakistani public, their prowess put inquestion by a foreign army’s ability to invade undetectedand kill Osama bin Laden. It was too much inthe wake of Abbottabad to have uniformed officers ontrial before civilian prosecutors affiliated with the PPP.It was a matter of ghairat—honor.Despite the intimidation, the ISI threats, and InteriorMinister Malik’s declarations of the Rangers’ innocence,the prosecutors won the case. The judge sentenced oneRanger to death, and the others, including the civilianwho had dragged Shah before the Rangers, to life inprison. That’s when the government and the agenciesratcheted up the pressure on Buriro and Mirza.“The army and agency believe any discussion ofanti-terrorism should be with them, not the civiliangovernment,” Ayesha Haroon, former editor of TheNews, said in an interview before her death in 2013.“It’s the strength of civilian government that we hadpublic prosecutors who with a free media could takecases like the Rangers and support them to go forward.But then we have the pushback that comes from thearmy and establishment. There’s always this battle, butslowly it is moving in the right direction. They managedto prosecute the Rangers.”The trial concluded on August 12, 2011. The defenseappealed. And on August 17, Buriro and Mirza flew tothe United States with the permission of the Pakistanigovernment. As prosecutors in the anti-terrorismcourt, they’d been selected by the U.S. Consulate inKarachi to attend a program convened by the DefenseInstitute of International Legal Studies at the Newport,R.I., naval station. The course fell under the rubric ofthe Kerry-Lugar Act’s training and capacity-building;the Pakistanis sent military and intelligence officers aswell. Even in the United States, Buriro said, he cameunder pressure from Pakistani military officers not togive a briefing on the Rangers case because it would“cause defamation and seriously damage the reputationof Pakistan.” He went ahead with the briefing anyway.Much of the physical and psychological intimidationof journalists and judicial officials is precipitated bythe perception that they are either working with theUnited States against Pakistan’s interests or exposingthe ISI-jihadi networks. The experience of Buriro andMirza was no exception. On the prosecutors’ returnto Karachi, the agencies began hounding them. “In theKarachi bar association we were interrogated by theISI officers many times: ‘Why did we go to Americafor training? What type of training? Why did we givea briefing on the Rangers case in America? Why wereyou invited? All others were uniformed persons fromother countries,’” Buriro said.Buriro and Mirza were trouble for the army and theintelligence. They understood the relationship betweenthe jihadis and the agencies, and they knew how uninterestedthe establishment was in prosecuting terrorists.“The agencies are not interested in convictions ofextremist guys,” Buriro said.Every week, the prosecutors would get a visit from ISIand military intelligence officers to discuss the terrorismcases, to find out how many were being tried, how manypending. “And always they’d say, ‘Why are you going aftergood Muslims?’ or ‘What is the case against [Lashkar-e-Janghvi leader] Akram Lahori? He is working for Islam.Why are you working against him?’ We replied that thegovernment gave us the case. They should withdraw it.”The MQM behaves with a little more subtletybut not much. As soon as Buriro and Mirzareturned to Karachi, they began work on theWali Khan Babar case.Buriro believes that Babar’s reporting got him introuble—coverage of extortion, targeted killings,electricity theft, land-grabbing, riots. “In Gulestane-Jauhararea, for example, which is dominated bythe MQM, people were using electricity withoutROOTS OF IMPUNITY 15

Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
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