KARACHI - The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Saturday directed the authorities concerned to produce reports issued by the joint investigation teams (JITs) in different high profile cases, by February16.

A division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro conducted hearing on a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Syed Ali Haider Zaidi seeking disclosure of joint investigation teams’ (JITs) reports on Lyari-based gangster Uzair Baloch, former Fishermen Cooperative Society chairman Dr Nisar Morai and the Baldia Town garments factory arson case.

Advocate General of Sindh Salman Talibuddin appeared before the court and stated that there was no law that bound the rulers to disclose such reports. He stated that JIT reports were not considered evidence; these reports were just findings of investigation teams.

The bench directed the advocate general to produce JIT reports on such high profile cases in the chambers at the next hearing.

At the last hearing, the advocate general had submitted that he did not receive any notice under Section 27 of the Civil Procedure Code, as the question in the petition pertained to interpretation of law.

The petitioner had made startling disclosures about involvement of politicians in crimes such as murder and extortion. He said that relevant authorities were approached to obtain copies of the reports and to make them public, but to no avail.

The petitioner submitted that gangster Uzair Baloch was tried by a military court on charges of espionage for Iranian intelligence agencies and he had confessed to his affiliation with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) central leadership, including its women wing head Faryal Talpur.

He said the gangster had admitted to paying Faryal the extortion money collected from different departments, adding that the man had also confessed to killing several people on PPP leadership’s directives and facilitating them in grabbing private properties after threatening their owners to vacate them.

Invoking the constitution’s Article 19-A (Right to information), the PTI leader asserted that the provincial and federal governments’ failure to publish the JIT reports was a violation of the citizens’ fundamental rights.

He said the content of the JIT reports was of public importance because it related to crimes that had wide-reaching implications on people at large. To strengthen his party’s case, he said the print and electronic media, through various sources, had reported on the JITs obtaining evidence that suggested involvement of various politicians in criminal activities. “It is imperative that such people are held accountable for their actions,” he said.

He argued that as long as JIT reports were kept confidential, the public would be left at the mercy of corrupt politicians who continued to silently exercise the influence they had over them, whereas investigations launched against them would go nowhere.

The PTI leader said disclosure of JIT reports was quite important because they carried allegations that the state machinery was being used to commit and cover up crimes. “People have the right to know if public resources were used for such activities,” he said.  He said that very purpose of constituting the JITs was to uncover the crimes they were assigned investigation into, adding that the purpose stood defeated if the reports were kept confidential.

He maintained that JIT reports were required to be made public under the provisions of the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act. He said the families of the Lyari gang war victims and of those who perished in the Baldia factory fire and other crimes deserved justice.

Their heirs should know who the perpetrators of those crimes were, he added, and requested the court to publish and provide official copies of the reports prepared by the JITs in the cases. The home department, however, told the SHC that making the JIT reports on Baloch and other offenders could jeopardise the state’s efforts to ensure prosecution and conviction of criminals.