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EDITORIAL: Shahrukh Jatoi, scion of a rich and influential family, has finally gotten away with blue murder on a legal technicality. Hearing his appeal against Sindh High Court’s (SHC’s) judgement, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday acquitted him along with the co-accused, Nawab Siraj Talpur, Sajjad Talpur (note their surname), in the December 2012 murder case of a young man, Shahzeb Khan.

Few can forget how the 20 year-old was shot dead for trying to stop Jatoi and company from harassing his sister, and also the way the system protected them. Although the victim’s father was a senior police officer, the police would not register an FIR against the accused.

An uncle of murdered man, former Pakistan People’s party MNA Nabil Gabol, tried to help but failed, compelling him to join the MQM, then a potent force, to have the case filed. Still, Jatoi managed to dodge the law by making good his escape to Dubai. It was only after the murder caused widespread public outrage that the then chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took notice, and on his orders Jatoi was brought back to stand trial.

All along it has been a sordid tale of evaded accountability. Within a few weeks, Jatoi was granted bail by the SHC. However, some civil society activists petitioned the SC challenging his release, whereupon Justice Chaudhry set aside the bail and ordered his arrest with the direction that the trial of the case be conducted under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

He was tried by an anti-terrorism court, and handed death sentence. But unrepentant and confident of his exoneration at a later point, on hearing the court verdict Jatoi flashed victory sign. Meanwhile, media reports spoke of threats being held out to the victims’ parents to get the case settled under the Diyat law, which they did. It was again under public pressure that the State became a party to the case before the SHC.

There he was acquitted of the charges under Section 302 (punishment for murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code while his punishment under Section 7 of the ATA was commuted from death sentence to life imprisonment. The SC has now accepted the defence counsel’s plea that the “unfortunate murder” took place in the dead of the night when no one was around to feel terrorised.

Granted that there is a tendency to slap terrorism charges in simple murder cases, but this one was different in that it created a general sense of fear, affirming yet again that any influential individual can kill at will without a worry about legal consequences.

The office of the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP)) Ashtar Ausaf Ali has announced its intention to move a review petition against the acquittal , saying the instance case having already been adjudicated to be one of constitutional importance by the apex court, which mandated taking AGP’s assistance as previously sought in petitions pertaining to the same matter. A well-established rule is to follow judicial precedents.

In this respect, reference is being made to the Nov 28, 2017, case of Muhammad Jibran Nasir. In it, the SC had agreed with the AGP’s contention that the SHC’s acquittal order per incuriam (lack of due regard to the law or the fact) was an act of egregious terrorism, and upheld conviction of the accused by an anti-terrorism court. Also, as mentioned above, in the present case the SC had ordered trial of the accused under ATA.

The case may not be over yet considering the AGP’s assertions that in the event the apex court had arrived at an outcome outside its own previous pronouncements relating to anti-terrorism offences, his “assistance must regardless be sought as to the acceptance of compromise [by the victim’s family] within the scope of fisad-fil-arz and the particular circumstances of the instant case – in which a review of the judgment would be eminent.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


Comments are closed.

Asad Ahmed Oct 23, 2022 11:09am
I think supreme court should release all the criminals,so that justice will be seen.
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KUKhan Oct 23, 2022 12:03pm
The Qisas and Diyat law was enacted to give relief in case of unintentional death or accident, it is now freely used by rich criminals to get free. One can gauge the seriousness of our justice system and the lack of responsibility by the judges by looking at the recently held judicial conference, we should be extremely worried. This injustice, like many others, will also pass and we will opine on new injustices in the future.
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Haroon Oct 23, 2022 01:47pm
Till law becomes just and till everyone is below it, Pakistan will not prosper
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zh Oct 23, 2022 10:11pm
The picture is worth a thousand words—the criminal shows no regrets and remorse but pride and entitlement.
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zh Oct 23, 2022 10:18pm
The Qisas and Diyat laws should only apply in cases of the death penalty. The murderers should still serve a jail term of 25 years in cases of first-degree murders. To create a level and just playfield, abolish the death penalty and the Qisas and Diyat laws. The laws work in favour of the wealthy.
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Shahzad Oct 24, 2022 01:07am
Law is only and solely for the poor and underprivileged public of the society . Now next soon Mr jaffar will be released on the same tunes.
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Shahzad Oct 24, 2022 01:08am
@Asad Ahmed, true
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Sleepless Oct 24, 2022 04:43pm
Written laws are like spiders' webs, and will, like them, only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful will easily break through them. Anacharsis
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Humayun Oct 25, 2022 05:30am
It speaks a thousand words about our justice system when a Government if the day has to appeal the Supreme Court (the so called Guarantor of basic human rights) for its fallacious decision to side with the criminals and the powerful.
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