Letters seem to be back

The letters sent to SC, IHC and LHC judges are serious, and merit investigation

The letter written by six judges of the Islamabad High Court contained explosive allegations of interference by officials of an intelligence agency in the functioning of the court. After a brief drama involving the Prime Minister and a judicial commission of enquiry, the Supreme Court took up the matter suo motu. At this juncture, on the day before the first hearing, all judges of the Islamabad High Court received letters containing a white powder, suspected to be anthrax. As the hearing commenced on Wednesday, four judges of the Supreme Court and five of the Lahore High Court also received similar letters, including both Chief Justice, also containing a white powder. In an age of email, social media, smartphones, this might seem a rather old-fashioned way of making threats, but probably fortunately, sending the means of bacteriological warfare over the Internet is not known. Whatever might transpire from a combination of 3D Printing and Virtual Reality technologies is still in the future, and probably the distant future, so at the moment, the mails are perhaps still the most efficient means of spreading the powder.

The sender was clearly hoping that the recipients would recall the 2001 anthrax attacks, when, a week after the 9/11 attacks, media offices, and Senators and Representatives began receiving letters by mail, containing anthrax spores, in exactly the same powder form sent to the judges. The threat was not negligible, for 22 people were infected, of whom five actually died. However, there have been no anthrax attacks since then. The investigation was one of the most complex and longest ever in the history of American law enforcement. Anthrax naturally occurs among animals, and humans can catch it from infected animals or animal products. However, it is not necessary that the powder contain anthrax spores. There could be some other chemical or bacteriological agent which must be traced.

That superior court judges are vulnerable should have become painfully clear. Apart from the very natural and eminently reasonable desire to preserve the lives of the judges, the investigation should also look to the future. The security measures involved will not mean a motorcade overflowing with beefy policemen armed to the teeth, which is the common perception of security. Whoever is behind this must be held fully accountable. This requires a thorough investigation to avert the impression that anything can be done to judges.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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