KARACHI: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday commuted the death penalty awarded to a Rangers official in the murder case of Sarfraz Shah, a young man who was shot dead by paramilitary troops and left to die inside a park in Clifton in June 2011, into life imprisonment.
A three-judge bench comprising Justices Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Gulzar Ahmed and Athar Saeed upheld the sentence and also ordered the release of the watchman of the Benazir Bhutto Park after omitting certain sections of the law in the case against him. The bench, however, rejected the appeals of the remaining convicts against their respective convictions.
The fatal shooting was filmed by a cameraman and telecast on various TV channels, sparking a public backlash over the brutality of trained paramilitary troops.
An anti-terrorism court headed by Judge Bashir Ahmed Khoso had sentenced Rangers constable Shahid Zafar to death and jailed Sub-Inspector Bahaur Rehman, Lance Naik Liaquat Ali and Constables Muhammad Tariq, Manthar Ali and Afzal Khan for life on Aug 12, 2011. The park’s watchman, Afsar Khan, was also jailed for life in the case.
The victim’s brother appears in court to ‘pardon’ convicts
Later, the convicts filed appeals in the Sindh High Court against their conviction, requesting the court to set aside the ATC judgement.
However, the appellant bench of the SHC on Jan 21, 2014 rejected the appeals and retained the ATC ruling of sentencing Shahid Zafar to death after finding him guilty of pulling the trigger. One of the convicts, Lance Naik Liaquat Ali, was acquitted by the SHC, which had also rejected the application of the victim’s brother, Salik Shah, seeking to enter into a compromise with the seven convicts, six of whom were Rangers personnel.
On Friday, the victim’s brother, who was a complainant in the case against the paramilitary troops, appeared before the judges to tell them that he and his family members had forgiven the convicts on the advice of his father and requested the court to pardon them.
The court observed that since a compromise had taken place in the murder case, it was a mitigating circumstance to reduce the death penalty to life imprisonment.
It may be recalled that Constable Shahid Zafar was awarded the death penalty and his colleagues were jailed for life for the murder under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. The sentences given for the offence under Section 302 of the PPC were pardoned after the compromise between the convicts and the victim’s family.
The court retained their conviction and sentences given under Section 7 of the ATA.
However, the apex court observed that the convicts could not be pardoned without an amendment to the Constitution as the case involved sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
APCs import case
The same bench restrained the provincial government from importing controversial armoured personnel cars (APCs) and weapons from Serbia.
The direction came on an application filed by a civil rights campaigner, Mahmood Akhtar Naqvi, who alleged that huge kickbacks were involved in the purchase of 20 APCs and arms and ammunition for the Sindh police.
He said the APCs and other articles were being purchased at a cost of Rs8 billion while the provincial government had already paid Rs650 million as a commission to the person behind the deal.
The applicant said the decision to purchase the APCs from Serbia was taken at a meeting headed by the then acting inspector general of police, Ghulam Shabbir Shaikh.
He said the APCs being bought were used and reconditioned, while vehicles of that quality were manufactured at the Taxila Heavy Mechanical Complex.
Assistant Advocate General Ghulam Qadir informed the court that the THMC-manufactured APCs had failed during a police operation in mafia-infested Lyari and use of the vehicle amounted to endangering the lives of police personnel.
Justice Osmany remarked that the army also purchased vehicles from the THMC.
The bench directed the managing director of the THMC to file a detailed report on the quality and standards of the vehicles manufactured by it, and put off the hearing to a date to be later announced by the court’s office.
Published in Dawn, August 30th , 2014