September 26, 2007

Baloch Nationalist leader Akhtar Mengal acquitted in treason case

BHC acquits Akhtar Mengal in treason case

QUETTA: The Balochistan High Court (BHC) on Tuesday acquitted Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) President Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal of a treason case.

BHC Chief Justice Amanullah Khan Yasinzai issued the order while disposing of Mengal’s application to quash a first information report (FIR) registered against him. The FIR was registered with Civil Lines police station after Mengal’s alleged anti-state speech delivered on Manan Chowk on April 2, 2006. Mengal pleaded that the BHC had quashed an FIR with similar charges against former Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) leader Amanullah Kanrani. Also, the court adjourned the hearing of four other treason cases against Mengal for a week. It also adjourned the hearing of four treason cases against BNP-M General Secretary Habib Jalib advocate for a week. app

Akhtar Mengal challenges jail trial

Thursday, September 13, 2007
By Jamal Khurshid


The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday issued notices to the advocate general Sindh and deputy attorney general on the petition of Balochistan National Party (Mengal) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal, wherein he has challenged his jail trial under Anti-terrorism laws.Former chief minister Balochistan, facing trial before Anti Terrorism Court in Karachi, is charged with kidnapping two army personnel, taking them hostage and torturing them with the intention to kill at his Darakshan house on April 5, 2006. Challenging the Sindh government’s authority under Article 15 (2) of Anti Terrorism Act that permits it to hold trial of an accused at any place, the petitioner’s counsel Rasheed A Rizvi and Haq Nawaz contended that the order was ultra vires to the Constitution as superior courts held that accused should be provided opportunity of open trial.

They submitted that the home department’s notification for conducting trial inside central prison was illegal and discriminatory because the co-accused in the same case were earlier tried in open court.

They prayed the court to strike down the above said article as it was also against the principle of an independent judiciary i.e. it should be separated from the executive.

The court was prayed to declare the petitioner’s jail trial as illegal and part of victimisation and issue direction for an open trial of the accused in accordance with the law.

SHC’s division bench comprising Justice Mohammad Athar Saeed and Justice Nadeem Azhar Siddiqui, after conducting preliminary hearing of the petition, issued notices to AG and DAG for September 18 and called their comments.

According to prosecution, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, along with his employees, had kidnapped army Havaldar Qurban Hussain and Lance Naik Fayaz Ahmed and took them hostage with the intention to kill them when the army personnel were going to perform their intelligence duty.

The abductees were released after law-enforcement agencies laid siege on the house of Akhtar Mengal in the Darakshan area.

Intimidating Baloch nationalists


William Ewart Gladstone, a renowned British politician had precisely said "Justice delayed, is justice denied." Tactical and deliberated delays in Pakistan's court proceedings are denying justice to thousands of citizens.

Akhtar Mengal, former chief minister, son of prominent Baloch politician and head of a moderate Baloch nationalist party is detained since last eight months and has been denied justice through delaying tactics. Illicit detention and mortification of Balochistan National Party Chief, Akhtar Mengal has exposed the inequality and courts inability to act without influence of executive.

Mengal is not arrested in corruption charges, neither charged with misuse of power. He is not an industrialist, loan defaulter and not involved in any land scam like many other pro-establishment politicians of the country.

Akhtar Mengal is detained and kept in isolated cell with scorching temperature in one of the Karachi's prison since December 2006. He is facing trial for two hours "abduction" of two undercover agents of security agencies. Mengal case is lingering on before anti terrorist.

According to constitution part II, Fundamental Rights and Principles of policy, article 25, guarantees that "All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law and there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone."

According to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Article 5, "States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights: (a) The right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice."
However, in last five years the Baloch people have not been treated according to national and international laws and neither constitutional guarantees nor courts have helped them in protection of their fundamental rights. Even courts response and actions to the legal appeals of Baloch victims was unpredictable.

Akhtar Mengal is not being tried in open court but in camera, in Karachi prison. Human rights groups and family members are not allowed to witness the proceedings. Mr Iqbal Haider, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, witnessed the first hearing in his trial and this is what he saw: "Mr Mengal was brought into the courtroom and shoved into an iron cage with bars all around that stood in a corner away from his counsel.

Akhtar Mengal and 500 senior Balochistan National Party activists arrested in November 2006, before President Musharraf 's visit to Balochistan, to stop BNP from peaceful long march against military operation, arrests, enforced disappearances, and demanding the provincial control of natural wealth and sea ports. Akhtar Mengal is president of Balochistan National Party (BNP) and former Chief Minister of Balochistan province (1997-1998). He also served his leader of opposition in Balochistan assembly twice.

BNP is a moderate political party, registered with Election Commission and believes on non violence mode of struggle. Party demands political, economic and social rights of the people. It demands autonomy and control of the province's natural resources and development projects. It opposes the unprecedented troop deployment and check posts established in eastern, southern and western regions of Balochistan to exploit province wealth and suppressing the progressive Baloch nationalists. Party believes that Islamabad policies are intended to consolidate its control of the province's politics and resources through proxy religious parties, and suppressing moderate, progressive and nationalist forces.

In April 2, 2006 BNP held a successful political rally of around one hundred thousand Baloch people, against military operation, enforced disappearances, establishment of military cantonments, Gwadar port project and exploitation of natural resources of Balochistan by central government.

According to Mr Mengal on April 5, 2006, undercover agents of security agencies tried to abduct his school going children. He stopped his car and asked them who they were, why he was being followed, and what they wanted of him. They refused to give any satisfactory answer. Considering a security issue, Akhtar Mengal security guards picked up the two riders of one motorcycle and carried them back to Mengal residence intending to hand them over to the police, at which stage the two admitted to being army personnel. Almost immediately, a large posse of law enforcement agency men (LEA) arrived at the house, took away their two companions who had been picked up, and laid siege to the house and its occupants.

On the intervention of Sindh Chief Minister, it was agreed that after handing over of Mengal's servants-guards, involved in two hours "abduction" of undercover agents to police for investigation, things will come to normal.

On April 11, Iqbal Haider, secretary-general of the HRCP along with a group of fellow commission members, visited Akhtar's house and that same night forces were withdrawn and Mengal and his family were free. At some later stage, it was found that a havildar of the Pakistan Army, one Qurban Hussain, had filed on April 5, 2006 an FIR against Akhtar and four guards. When Akhtar's relatives attempted to file an FIR against the LEAs, it was refused. A constitutional petition (D-1917/06) was filed on Akhtar's behalf in the Sindh High Court asking that an FIR be accepted and registered. On October 13, the court restrained the ATC from pronouncing a judgement against the four accused. The restraining order is still in force and despite this, Akhtar's four guards were convicted on December 9, 2006 by the ATC and sentenced to several terms of imprisonment, including life, for each of the offences and each was fined Rs.140,000.

Akhtar himself remained free to move about at will, which he did, speaking at public meetings in various places in Balochistan, and continuing with his normal political engagements until November 28, 2006 when he was arrested, together with senior members of party, by the Balochistan police and taken to Lassi Farm House in Hub Town, which was declared a sub-jail. He was kept there until December 26, 2006 when his arrest was disclosed and he was produced before the same Anti Terrorist Court. His 14 companions were removed to an undisclosed destination. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

Akhtar Mengal's father and old hand Baloch nationalist, Sardar Ataullah Mengal, has expressed the fear that the government and security agencies might harm his son. He is denied all basic medical facilities in prison.

Akhtar's lawyer has moved three applications, one seeking the provision of medical attention, a second asking that he be given 'B' class accommodation, and the third for his release on bail. The hearing of all the applications was deferred. The reason given for the deferment of the 'B' class application was that no income tax certificate was available, but when on January 10, a certificate was produced to the presiding officer, no order was passed. On January 10, when senior advocate Mr Azizullah Sheikh arrived at Karachi Central Prison to have his papers signed by his client, Akhtar Mengal, he was denied access to him. Iqbal Haider from HRCP was also, that same day, was refused permission to meet Akhtar.

On January 19, 2007 the judge of an anti-terrorism court disallowed the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) from observing the proceedings of a case against former chief minister of Balochistan Akhtar Mengal. Even the judge had denied entry into the court to the HRCP secretary-general and other nominated members of commission to witness trial. All proceedings of trial are being conducted in camera to intimidate Mr Mengal and progressive Baloch politicians to stop them from demanding socio-economic and political rights of the people of Balochistan. HRCP secretary-general said "Hence there is no justification for holding trial inside the prison in camera and denying presence of even observers of the HRCP and family members."

Akhtar Mengal, as head of political party, four times elected representative, former chief minister and leader of opposition of Balochistan assembly and prominent politician is entitled to all basic legal rights and facilities. However, he has been denied all basic legal and human rights just because of his political standing and opposition to military rule and operation in Balochistan province. Repeated humiliation of Baloch people and their political representatives will increase the animosity among the troubled Baloch population and in smaller provinces.
Rulers in Pakistan must abide by the domestic and international covenants and stop intimidating, harassment, disappearances and dishonouring Baloch people and their political representatives. There should be an open, fair and speedy trial for Akhtar Mengal. It is not only in the interest of justice but also in the interest of the government to allow trials in open courts. Presently a large number of political activists in province are held, and denied by basic legal and prison rights. They should be treated justly and produced before the courts and must be treated according to the United Nation Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
Baloch people should not be discriminated, they are part of federation and have equal rights according to social contract they must be respected and treated as equal populace and their grievances must be heard and resolved politically. US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, in his letter from Birmingham Jail, on April 16, 1963 wrote that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Misuse of power and use of force against a distressed population, will bread detestation and broaden the gap between province and central government.

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