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What a tangled web we weave

July 18, 2012

This morning, we received strange news from Gilgit: the judge of the Anti-Terrorism Court had dismissed the bail application against the new set of charges filed against Baba Jan under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Not because of any weakness in the arguments presented by the counsel for the defendant, but because it transpired that the court had never actually been officially informed that new ATA charges had been brought against Baba Jan. Further, the court took serious notice of the fact that the police had never produced the accused for judicial remand before the court, nor had they respected the seven-day deadline (from the time of filing of charges) to present the report of the joint investigation team that is constituted in each ATA case.

As a result, the state is now open to charges of contempt of court in the Anti-Terrorism Court. Due to this possibility, the state might actually retract the ATA charges it filed on June 29, 2012, in which case, a new bail application will have to be filed in the court of the district magistrate. In case the state persists with the newest ATA charges, the bail hearing will go back to the Anti-Terrorism Court.

The obvious question, in this Kafkaesque situation, is: how come the Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Court had accepted the public prosecutor’s plea, in the hearing on June 29, 2012, that the court was no longer authorised to hear the bail petition of the accused as new ATA charges had been filed against him? And having accepted it, how come the court did not take notice of the fact that the various fundamental provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act – production of accused in court for judicial remand, submission of report of joint investigation team within seven days of filing of charges – were simply ignored in the intervening period?

It seems that the state has deliberately exploited the numerous lacunae and grey areas in the relevant legal procedures to extend the baseless detention of Baba Jan for three weeks at least. And now, by their delaying tactics, they have rendered the judicial machinery incapable of admitting the bail plea, thus delaying the whole matter by another week, at least. It is hard to decide the complicity of the dependent judiciary of Gilgit-Baltistan in these manoeuvres, but its powerlessness has reduced it to a sham in the eyes of all those who demand justice in the case of the Aliabad killings.

This latest episode proves that the campaign needs to return to the streets, the streets of Gilgit, if need be, in order to force the federal government in Islamabad and the colonial administration of Gilgit-Baltistan to release Iftikhar Hussain, Ameer Khan and Baba Jan from detention and drop all the baseless charges brought against the Hunza Five. By discrediting its own judicial apparatus in the eyes of the people, the colonial regime is sowing the seeds of revolt.

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