Home South Asia Pakistan Short lives, long trials – men acquitted after death

Short lives, long trials – men acquitted after death

In Pakistan, there are several examples where people won the legal battles but lost their lives on the way. If anything, their cases expose the flaws of the criminal justice system and inordinate delays in hearing of appeals. Following is the story of two men who have been acquitted posthumously and a retired brigadier who committed suicide to avoid humiliation. He has left this world with a pray to the chief justice of Pakistan to clear his name if found innocent.

acquitted

News Desk |

Some people do not live long enough to see the day when they are acquitted of all the charges levelled against them. Col (retd) Iftikhar Ahmad Awan and Mazhar Hussain were among them. These are the examples of a few men whom the Supreme Court has exonerated after their death.

On Monday, the top court absolved Awan of charges of corruption four years after his death. In October 2016, the apex court had acquitted Hussain two years after his death. In Pakistan, there are several examples where people won the legal battles but lost their lives on the way.

The court has acquitted Colonel Awan and annulled the fine imposed on him four years after his death.

If anything, their cases expose the flaws of the criminal justice system and inordinate delays in hearing of appeals. In Awan’s case, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed a reference against him in 2001 on grounds that he had allegedly committed irregularities in the Services Cooperative Credit Corporation Limited (SCCCL).

On June 12, 2002, an accountability court in Lahore had convicted the retired colonel and sentenced him to 14-year in prison and imposed a fine of Rs250,870,000 as well as an additional fine of Rs500,000,000. He challenged the judgment before the Lahore High Court (LHC). In May 2005, the LHC maintained the conviction and fine but reduced the sentence from 14 years to five years.

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Subsequently, the convicted colonel challenged the judgment before the Supreme Court which granted leave in 2009. Colenol Awan, however, passed away on April 22, 2015. Later, Awan’s legal heirs petitioned the apex court to become a party in the case and requested the court to decide the case on merit so that the stigmatic conviction may be removed.

In the petition, they said the deceased was an honest and upright man and had not committed any irregularity. On September 21, 2017, the Supreme Court allowed this application and the legal heirs became a party in the case. The counsel for Colonel Awan’s legal heirs, Akram Sheikh, argued that his client’s case was a classic example of NAB’s highhandedness and their unconstitutional intrusion in the judicial dispensation.

The apex court had acquitted Hussain two years after his death. In Pakistan, there are several examples where people won the legal battles but lost their lives on the way.

“In this voluminous reference, there is not even a single paper coming from a lawful source or custody, comprising any legally admissible evidence and unfortunately the courts below have been condoning their highhandedness by overlooking the same,” Sheikh was quoted as saying by an English daily.

Under the law, he said, no person can be convicted unless there is a lawful proof against him coming from a lawful source and produced by either the custodian of the record or their office. He then requested the court to direct the prosecution to produce a single such document, saying he would not press his appeal.

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To court’s direction, the paper reported, NAB prosecutor Jehanzeb Bharwana argued at length but could not produce any document which could be termed ‘admissible as evidence’. Over NAB’s failure to convince the bench, the court accepted the appeal and posthumously set aside the conviction and sentence. The court has acquitted Colonel Awan and annulled the fine imposed on him four years after his death.

Mazhar Hussain’s acquittal comes two years late

In October 2016, the Supreme Court had exonerated Mazhar Hussain, who was convicted of murder and handed down the death sentence by a sessions court in April 2004. When the judgment was announced, even the apex court was not aware that Hussain had passed away due to the coronary failure in prison a couple of years ago.

“He did not live to see the day when he would be acquitted,” the paper reported. His case had triggered the debate about delays in hearing of appeals. Hussain’s exoneration came about 19 years after he was accused of murdering Muhammad Ismail in May 1997 in Dhoke Ali Haider within the jurisdiction of the Sihala police station, Islamabad.

No person can be convicted unless there is a lawful proof against him coming from a lawful source and produced by either the custodian of the record or their office.

It was reported that when the top court examined the medical evidence and the claimed presence of witnesses at the crime scene, it had emerged that the witnesses were lying about the time of the murder. Failure to establish the case beyond reasonable doubt led to his acquittal in the case. However, it was reported, Hussain had allegedly murdered another condemned prisoner, Mulazam Hussain in June 2005.

Read more: No arrested official to be handcuffed: NAB chairperson

In Mulazim’s case, he was also convicted and sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment in addition to paying Diyat of Rs360,209 by the trial court on April 30, 2010.

Brigadier (retd) Asad Munir’s case

In March this year, a former intelligence official and defence analyst Brigadier (retd) Asad Munir committed suicide and accused NAB of ‘harassment’ in his last note. According to police, Munir’s body was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his apartment in the Diplomatic Enclave.

The media reported that Munir committed suicide after the emergence of media reports that NAB decided to file a reference of abuse of office against him. The anti-graft watchdog had decided to investigate Munir, who was a former member of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), and others for allegedly abusing their powers to restore a plot in Sector F-11 in Islamabad while violating rules and regulations.

Hussain’s exoneration came about 19 years after he was accused of murdering Muhammad Ismail in May 1997 in Dhoke Ali Haider within the jurisdiction.

His brother Khalid Munir had confirmed in a tweet the letter was authentic, typed by his brother as he wrote on the top in his own handwriting. Asad Munir had instructed how the letter should be handled.

Read more: Brig. Asad Munir’s suicide: Why transparent investigation is important?

The suicide note, which Munir wrote to the Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa before his death, stated: “I’m giving my life in the hope that you’ll bring positive changes in [the] system where incompetent people are playing with life & honor of citizens in name of accountability.”

In addition, he stated: “I am committing suicide to avoid humiliation, being handcuffed and paraded in front of the media. I request you, the honorable Chief Justice, to take notice of NAB’s officials conduct so that other government officials are not convicted for the crime they had not committed.”

Read more: Asad Munir commits suicide: Implicates NAB in alleged death note

The news of Asad Munir’s suicide had shocked many across Pakistan, especially, because he left this world with a pray to the chief justice to clear his name if found innocent.

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