Lahore, Oct 17: Even as Pakistan talks about strict action against terrorists, 75 per cent of terror suspects arrested in the Punjab province here over the last two decades were set free by the courts due to lack of evidence, according to data compiled by the provincial government.
“If you were accused of being a terrorist in Punjab over the past two decades, there was about a 75 per cent chance that you would be acquitted,” ‘The Express Tribune' daily said.
Since 1990, there have been 800 incidents of terrorism in Punjab, of which 475 have actually been prosecuted.
“A total of 2,300 suspects were named in those cases, and about 2,200 arrested. Of those arrested, about 1,650 - or 75 per cent - were acquitted by the courts due to a lack of evidence against them,” the daily said quoting the government data.
Public prosecutors, however, claim that the conviction rate was even lower than those numbers suggest.
Chaudhry Muhammad Jahangir, Punjab's chief public prosecutor, said that “terrorism” cases often included simpler crimes like abduction for ransom among others that were classified as terrorism because they were mentioned in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.
Jahangir said that conviction rates on actual cases of terrorism were even lower.
“Jahangir identified three major problems with the prosecution of terrorism cases that led to so many acquittals: lack of witness protection, defective investigations, and lack of forensic and other technology that would aid the investigation process,” the report said.
Even though Ali Amir Malik, the deputy inspector general of police for investigations, agrees with Jahangir, he identified the withdrawal of testimonies by witnesses as the primary cause for the low conviction rate.