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Nine more judges receive ‘toxic’ mail

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ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: A day after the judges of the Islamabad High Court received letters allegedly laced with a toxic substance, similar letters arrived in the Supreme Court and the Lahore High Court, prompting the Counter-Terrorism Department to register two terrorism cases in Islamabad and Lahore.

The letters in the top court were sent to CJP Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, and Justice Aminuddin. The letters were received at the Receipt and Issue (R&I) Branch of the apex court from where they were forwarded to the staff of the judges. Like the letters received a day earlier by the IHC judges, suspicious powder was also found inside the envelopes and sent to the forensic lab. The letters sent by an unknown group threatened the judges of the Supreme Court for ‘rescuing evil’.

These letters were sent to the judges by two senders but their addresses were not mentioned.

Over the issue, a case was also registered at the police station of the Counter Terrorism Department under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Section 507 of the Pakistan Penal Code in response to a complaint lodged by Mohammad Iqbal, a duty in-charge at the R&I Branch.

According to the FIR, the letters were received by a clerk of the R&I Branch with routine mail on March 29/30. The letters were forwarded to the secretary of the judges through a naib qasid, it added. Gulshan Khatoon was the sender of two letters whereas one letter was sent by Sajjad Hussain, the FIR said, adding that the letters were, however, sent without complete address of the senders. After the police reached the top court, they confiscated the letters from the R&I Branch.

A police officer told Dawn that each letter had a Rs30 postage stamp but the sealed stamp by the post office on the letters was blurred.

An amount of the suspicious powder was taken from each envelope and would be sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory Islamabad on Thursday (today) for toxicological and chemical tests.

Meanwhile, DIG Opera­tions Shehzad Bukhari appeared before the chief justice and informed the court about the ongoing probe. The police official said that the suspected toxic power and the letters had been sent for forensic analysis. According to the DIG, the Pakistan Post was also in the loop about the investigation.

Letters in LHC

Meanwhile, the letters received by at least five judges of the Lahore High Court were also sent to the forensics laboratory and a case by the CTD was registered. The judges who received the letters were Chief Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan, senior puisne judge Justice Shujaat Ali Khan, Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan, Justice Aalia Neelum, and Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh.

After the matter was reported to the police, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Bilal Siddique Kamyana, DIG Operations Ali Nasir Rizvi, and other police officials rushed to the high court. The personal staff of the judges found the letters in the daily mail received at the high court, an official told Dawn on condition of anonymity. He said the staff of all judges at the LHC was already alert in the wake of letters sent to the IHC judges.

He said the staff did not open the envelopes and handed them over to police officials. The source said the police also arrested the postman of a private courier company, who supposedly delivered the suspicious letters to the high court with no details of the dispatchers.

CTD registers case

In a late night development, the Punjab police’s Counter Terrorism Department in Lahore lodged an FIR under the anti-terrorism act and other charges against unknown suspects for sending threatening letters to the Lahore High Court’s judges. The case was registered on the complaint of the DSP Security of the Lahore High Court and the letters were sent to the Punjab Forensic Science Agency for analysis.

An official said that as soon as the LHC alerted police high-ups, senior officers from the CTD and other wings reached there. He said that the police took into custody the suspected letters for analysis, adding that the white powder letters seemed to be anthrax, a bacteria that severely affects humans.

Earlier in the day, DIG Rizvi, in a brief conversation with reporters, confirmed the landing of the suspicious letters in the mail of the judges.

He said officials of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and the Punjab Forensic Science Agency had been called in to investigate the matter.

He said the police were inspecting the mail of all judges of the LHC to confirm how many judges received such letters. He refused to comment further, saying the authorities would come up with an official statement after the initial investigation. The DIG did not confirm whether the letters contained any toxic chemical or threatening text.