GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 857, 5 April 2024

Threat letters to the judges
Shamini Velayutham

What happened?
On 04 April, addressing a federal cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asserted that the government would probe into the ‘threat letters’ laced with ‘suspicious powder’ which was received by the judges of the Supreme Court (SC) and High Courts of Islamabad and Lahore. He said that these letters were sent following the SC’s suo motu proceedings regarding the allegations put forth by the IHC judges about the intervention of intelligence agencies in judicial affairs. PM Sharif said: “We had fulfilled our responsibility and after that, these changes came.” With regards to the letter sent, he said: “The government of Pakistan, with a sense of responsibility, will conduct an investigation into this.”

Following the issue, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of the Punjab police in Lahore, filed an FIR under Section 7 the of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Section 507 of the Pakistan Penal Code. The FIR stated that the letters were received by a clerk of the Receipt and Issue (R&I) Branch of the apex court with the routine mail.

An editorial in Dawn titled, ‘
Mail-in ‘terrorism’ states that the CTD should ensure to monitor possible threats which include “chemical and biological terrorism.” The editorial further stated that, since the postal system of the country is prone to exploitation, measures should be taken to safeguard from threats and therefore the incident should not be taken lightly or ignored.

What is the background?
On 02 April, eight IHC judges received ‘threat letters’ in a white envelope with their names written on it. The staff of the judges found a suspicious powder laced with it. As per the FIR, the letter was sent with an incomplete address of the sender. The letter, in reference to ‘Tehreek-i-Namoos Pakistan’ criticized the judicial system of Pakistan, and a photo and the English word “Bacillus Anthracis” were also included.
On the same day, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) called for an ‘immediate and comprehensive investigation’ over the threatening letters that were sent to IHC judges. PTI spokesperson formulated the motives behind the letter as “to intimidate the esteemed judges of the high court, coercing them to retract their letter addressed to the Supreme Judicial Council.”

On 03 April, following the Islamabad High Court (IHC) jurists, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations confirmed that threat letters containing suspicious powder were also sent to the Lahore High Court (LHC) judges, the Supreme Court (SC) judges including Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa. The letters sent to CJP Isa, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, and Justice Aminuddin Khan have been handed over to the CTD. DIG asserted that the envelopes had a powdery substance and they had been sent to a lab for examination, additionally, DIG enquired post master about his ignorance. The letters were sent by a woman namely “Resham” without mentioning her address.

Investigation of the issue
In response to the issue, the home department conducted a meeting with top police officials and forensic officials. According to sources, the CTD comprising of a task force was presided by the DIG. In the wake of the incident, the home department and other agencies have decided to provide ‘scanning machines’ to scan any letters before opening unknown letters. According to the investigators, the letters were sent from the General Post Office (GPO) in Rawalpindi; and the suspected “anthrax-laced letters” that were deposited in the post boxes had nonfunctional CCTV cameras surrounding them. Although no cameras were installed on the premises, CTD has requested the adjacent offices and buildings to submit the CCTV footage from their cameras. Islamabad Police Spokesperson Taqi Jawad anticipates that DIG Syed Shehzad Nadeem Bukhari and his team will trace the senders shortly.

Malik Asad and Mansoor Malik, “
Investigators hunt source of ‘toxic letters,” Dawn, 05 April 2024
Editorial, “
Mail-in ‘terrorism,” Dawn, 05 April 2024
Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai, “
Anthrax letters’ probe hits brick wall as CCTV cams near post boxes found faulty,” The News International, 04 April 2024
Govt will probe letters laced with ‘suspicious powder’ received by judges: PM Shehbaz,” Dawn, 05 April 2024
Munawer Azeem and Wajih Ahmad Sheikh, “
Nine more judges receive ‘toxic’ mail,” Dawn, 04 April 2024
Munawer Azeem and Malik Asad, “
IHC judges receive letters laced with ‘toxic chemical Dawn, 03 April 2024

Imran Adnan, “PTI calls for probe into ‘threatening letters’ sent to IHC judges,” The Express Tribune, 02 April 2024

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