Judicial commission to probe ‘Operation Silence’

Judicial commission to probe ‘Operation Silence’

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday constituted a one-man judicial commission for conducting within 45 days a “thorough probe” into the military operation against alleged militants who took refuge in Lal Masjid in 2007.

The commission would be headed by a judge of the Federal Shariat Court, the court said. The court direction may further ignite tensions between the military and judiciary, as the critics of the judiciary would get another opportunity to question its orders. The judiciary has been questioned time and again in the past by critics for setting free militants captured by security agencies. The military operation at the seminary had also polarised the society in 2007.

Earlier, a three-member bench resumed hearing in a number of pleas seeking initiation of proceedings against those responsible for the Lal Masjid operation. The bench comprised Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Azmat Saeed. During the hearing, the bench observed that despite the issuance of directions to the authorities time and again, police did not come up with a satisfactory answer. It said since there was no evidence or findings, they were compelled to have an opinion that a judicial commission would have to be formed to probe into the matter.

The bench also dictated the terms of reference (ToRs) for the commission, directing it to determine the causes of incident that took place between July 6 and July 12, 2007, at Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, the number of male and female casualties, the casualties suffered by law enforcement agencies and the bodies handed over to relatives.The commission would also probe whether any compensation was paid to the heirs of victims of the operation by the state and whether any action was taken under the law against those responsible for the incident, besides evaluating the available material collected so far, the court directed.

During the hearing of Islamabad Police Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Tahir Alam Khan informed the bench that the relevant record showed that a total of 103 bodies were recovered from the mosque, including 88 of militants, 11 of personnel of law enforcement agencies and four of civilians.The chief justice asked how could it be established that 88 of those killed were militants.

Khan said they had collected the DNA tests of these people who had holed up in the courtyard of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa. To the bench’s query, the AIG replied that no female body was recovered during the incident.Upon this, Justice Azmat Saeed observed that such an answer was unacceptable as there were reports of minor girls having been killed in the operation.