- Apex court issues arrest warrants for suspects, sends notices to respondents in the case
KARACHI: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Saturday admitted a civil petition regarding the Shahzeb Khan murder case and ordered the placement of all suspects on the Exit Control List (ECL) while issuing bailable arrest warrants for them.
On December 23, 2017, Jatoi, the son of an influential feudal, and other defendants in the Shahzeb Khan murder case, were released from custody on bail after Shahzeb’s father submitted an affidavit in support of the defendant’s bail application.
Shahzeb was gunned down by Jatoi in a posh locality of Karachi on December 25, 2012.
An ATC in 2013 had awarded death sentences to Jatoi and Siraj Talpur for the murder of Shahzeb, while life sentences were awarded to Sajjad Ali Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari.
During the Saturday’s hearing of the appeal at the Supreme Court’s Karachi Registry, a three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar ordered the government and Interior Ministry to place the names of suspects Shahrukh Jatoi, Siraj Talpur, Sajjad Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari on the ECL, directing the Interior Ministry to issue relevant instructions to all airports in the country.
At the outset, CJP Nisar observed that since the appellants were not complainants in the case, the court will have to see whether they have locus standi (the right or capacity to bring an appeal to a court) to file the appeals.
Advocate Faisal Siddiqui, who represented the appellants, contended that the state was protecting the suspects in the high-profile murder case. The top court had vast powers to hear and decide the appeals, he argued.
As the hearing went underway, the SC’s Karachi registry also admitted a petition challenging the Sindh High Court (SHC) decision to strike out terrorism charges from the case as ‘maintainable’.
Lateef Khosa and Babar Awan, who were representing Shahrukh Jatoi and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari respectively, argued that the murder of Shahzeb Khan had been a personal crime and could not be classified as an act of terror.
“The incident took place at 1:30am. There was no one else at the crime scene who might have been terrorised by [the murder],” Khosa argued.
He said the fight between Shahrukh and Shahzeb had started with a slap and ended with a gunshot, adding that since the victim was the brother of the girl being harassed by Shahrukh’s accomplices, he managed to gather the public’s sympathy.
Khosa further said that none of the witnesses of the case believed it to have been an act of terrorism.
Prosecution lawyer Faisal Siddiqui, however, insisted that if Shahzeb’s murder would not have been an act of terrorism, the civil society would not have filed a petition to challenge the SHC’s decision.
Siddiqui went on to argue that the SHC had overlooked important legal aspects of the case. He also reminded the court that the SC had not objected when the case’s challan was first submitted in the SC — after then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had taken suo motu notice of the case in 2012 — even though it had included terrorism clauses.
Siddiqui argued that Shahzeb’s murder had a wide impact and had sparked nationwide protests, and should, therefore, qualify as an act of terrorism. The CJP, however, took this argument with a grain of salt, saying that the court will make a decision in accordance with the law instead of relying on public opinion and protests.
In November 2017, the SHC had set aside the death penalty awarded to the convicts in the Shahzeb murder case and ordered a retrial after Shahrukh Jatoi’s lawyer, Advocate Farooq H. Naek, successfully argued that terrorism charges should not have been included in the case.
Mian Saqib Nisar has ordered that the convicts appear in court for the next hearing of the case, but adjourned the hearing indefinitely.
The court also issued bailable arrest warrants for the suspects against the surety bond of Rs 5,00,000 per person and sent out notices to all the respondents in the case.
Civil society members had filed a petition with the SC against the Sindh High Court (SHC) ruling which pardoned Shahrukh Jatoi from a death penalty along with other convicted persons in the Shahzeb murder case in 2012.
The civil society members, including Jibran Nasir, Jamshed Raza Mahmood, Afiya Shehrbano Zia, Naeem Sadiq, Nazim Fida Hussain Haji, Zulfiqar Shah, Aquila Ismail, Fahim Zaman Khan and Naziha Syed Ali. They filed a criminal petition in the Supreme Court’s Karachi Registry against the SHC’s November 28, 2017, ruling which stated that the murder case did not fall within the jurisdiction of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
The petitioners had stated in their petition that they were legally empowered to file a petition for leave to appeal as they were residents of Karachi’s posh Defence Housing Authority, where the murder took place. They said that the incident was not an individual act of violence, but it also carried serious repercussions for the society as it created fear and panic among the citizens of the port city.
Later, the Supreme Court accepted the appeal filed by civil society activists and issued orders to put the names of the accused in the Shahzeb Khan murder case on the ECL.
The three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar directed the government and the interior ministry to place the names of Shahrukh Jatoi, Siraj Talpur, Sajjad Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari on ECL. The apex court also directed the interior ministry to issue relevant instructions to all airports in the country. The court also issued bailable arrest warrants for the accused.
Following the apex court’s order, the Ministry of Interior placed the names of the accused on ECL.