KARACHI, June 7: In a speedy trial, Shahrukh Jatoi and Nawab Siraj Ali Talpur were on Friday sentenced to death and two other co-accused to life imprisonment for shooting 20-year-old Shahzeb Khan to death a little over six months ago in the Defence area.
Clad in black shalwar-qameez with a traditional Sindhi cap on head, convict Jatoi, the son of a business tycoon, kept on grinning meaninglessly as Judge Ghulam Mustafa Memon of the Anti-Terrorism Court-III announced his 95-page verdict of the case that had sparked widespread outrage across the country through newspapers, TV channels and social media.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had also taken sou motu notice on the killing of the victim, the son of a DSP, on Dec 25, 2012 near his house in Karachi’s Defence Housing Society.
According to the prosecution, Shahzeb had an altercation with the accused persons since they tried to tease his sister and later the issue was settled by some elders, but they killed the victim by opening indiscriminate fire on his vehicle.
Initially, the case (FIR 591/12) was registered under Sections 302 (premeditated murder), 109 (abetment) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code on a complaint of the deceased’s father, DSP Aurangzeb, However, during the investigation, Section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modestly) of the PPC and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 were incorporated in the FIR.
The incident also triggered a widespread debate over whether the country’s elite could be held accountable for crimes they committed as the prime accused belonged to powerful feudal families of Sindh.
The court ordered: “Keeping in view the overall facts and circumstances of the case including the conduct of the accused and the manner of commission of the offence, accused Shahrukh Jatoi and Nawab Siraj Ali Talpur are convicted and sentenced to death, while accused Nawab Sajjad Ali Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari are convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for life under Section 7 (a) ATA read with section 302, 109 and 34 of the PPC for committing the offence of terrorism whereby death of deceased Shahzeb was caused”.
Accused Lashari, the servant of Talpurs, was also sentenced to one-year term for outraging the modesty of the victim’s sister.
The unfortunate episode started with the misbehaviour of accused Lashari with the victim’s sister.
She stated in court that Lashari hurled indecent remarks on her when she was to enter her 11th-floor apartment on her return from a wedding.
The teenage girl deposed that she immediately phoned her mother complaining about the misbehaviour of the Talpurs’ servant.
The girl’s mother stated in her deposition in court that she immediately sent her son to home as his sister was in trouble.
The victim returned and had an altercation with the Talpurs’ servant and this later led to a quarrel between him and the accused persons. The victim’s mother tried to pacify the situation and directed her son to tender an apology to the accused persons.
The victim did what his mother asked him to do, but the accused person did not accept the apology saying that they would be satisfied only if accused Lashari, who was employed as a cook by Talpurs only two days before the incident, was allowed to slap the victim.
The victim’s mother directed her son to leave the place and immediately after his departure accused Jatoi took out his pistol and declared that he would exterminate Shahzeb. Then the four accused also departed and the victims’ parents went to the apartment of the two accused Talpurs’ father, Nawab Imdad Ali Taplur, to ease out the situation.
However, the accused persons intercepted the victim at Khayaban-e-Bahria and shot him dead.
Two friends of the victim, Muhammad Shah and Muhammad Ahmed Zuberi, who had also chased the accused persons, witnessed the incident and deposed in court accordingly.
The two friends stated in court that Shahzeb rolled over and rested on a side after he was fired upon and later accused Nawab Sajjad Ali Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari went to the victim’s car and instigated accused Jatoi to kill the victim as he was still alive. Jatoi pumped more bullets then.
The judge observed in the verdict: “Indeed, the unfortunate episode started with misbehave of accused Ghulam Murtaza Lasahri with Miss Maha and ended in the murder of her brother deceased Shahzeb”.
The judge also referred to the contention of the defence counsel that all depositions of all six eyewitnesses should not be relied upon because all of them were near relatives and friends of the victim. “In this regards it may be mentioned that mere friendship or relationship does not make a witness an interested one and testimony of such a witness who otherwise seems to be truthful witness cannot be rejected on such ground,” the judge observed in the judgement.
The court also rejected the defence contention that there was a discrepancy with regard to the time of the incident mentioned in papers of the investigation and the evidence given by the witnesses in court.
It observed that the wrong mention of time in the papers of investigation could not be made a ground for discarding the credible evidence of the witnesses.
The court also rejected the plea of alibi taken by accused Jatoi, who produced his elder brother, Ashraf Ali Jatoi, as a defence witness to state that the accused was with him at airport at the time of the incident.
The court observed that the alibi plea was required to be taken at the earliest available opportunity but it was taken at a later stage in the instant case. “It was not taken before the investigation officers, it was also not taken by the accused [persons] in their plea when the charge was read over and explained to them by the court”, it added.
The court discharged the names of absconding accused Asif Lund, Suleman Jatoi and Khurram Muhammed as no evidence against them was produced by the prosecution.