SKARDU/GILGIT: Anti-Terrorism Court in Gilgit has dropped terrorism charges against Advocate Asif Naji, a flamboyant lawyer and nationalist political worker, who was arrested after an altercation with police official in Skardu two days back.
Asif Naji had been transferred to Gilgit to face trial in the region’s only Anti-Terrorism Court, while his two colleagues, Advocate Zulfiqar and Advocate Shakir Rehan, were detained and kept in Skardu.
The altercation between the police officials and lawyers took place outside the Commissioner Office in Skardu while a group of women was protesting lack of drinking water. The protesters moved towards the Commissioner’s office, accompanied by a group of lawyers and activists. The protesters were stopped at the gate of the Commissioner Office. Exchange of hot words took place, after which there was pushing and shoving.
Police registered FIR against three lawyers, including Asif Naji, accusing them of ‘attacking the office’, ‘roughing up police officials’, ‘interfering in official duty’, ‘spreading fear’ and ‘threatening to kill policemen’. The FIR, a copy of which is available with PT, prays to the court to try the accused under Anti-Terrorism Act.
Commenting on the incident, prominent lawyer and founding Chairman of Awami Action Committee Advocate Ehsan Ali has said that the ATA laws are being abused regularly by the police and administration to intimidate and harass activists. He has said that 99 % of terrorism charges are quashed by the courts. He has called for a complete repeal of the law, calling it ‘illegal’ in the Gilgit-Blatistan region.
Lawyers and political activists protested in Gilgit and Skardu, condemning the registration of cases against the lawyers. They said that the administration is trying to suppress the public’s genuine demands by accusing them of terrorism.
After dropping terrorism charges, Asif Naji was shifted to Skardu where he will face trial in a session court.
Two days after the altercation, the Commissioner of Baltistan Division, Hamza Salick, was removed from his post and directed to report to S&GAD, according to a notification issued by Chief Secretary Khurram Agha.