Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that the Sindh High Court had overturned the death sentence of Faisal Mota and ordered a retrial by the lower courts. In fact, the court on August 16 announced a date for further hearing. The error is deeply regretted.

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday set September 21 as the date for rehearing of the appeal filed by Faisal Mehmood, alias Mota — the primary accused in the Wali Khan Babar murder case — against the death sentence awarded to him by an antiterrorism court.

The Larkana bench of the SHC had earlier reserved judgement on the appeal filed by Faisal Mota, who was awarded a death sentence in absentia, by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Kandhkot in March 2014 for masterminding the 2011 murder of television journalist Wali Babar in Karachi.

Mota, said to be a worker of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was later arrested and detained in March 2015 in Karachi after Rangers conducted a raid at the MQM headquarters.

Faisal Mehmood alias Mota
Faisal Mehmood alias Mota

Mota's counsel Advocate Aamir Masoob Qureshi in April 2015 had submitted in SHC that Mota's death sentence should be declared illegal since it was awarded in absentia. According to Articles 21-L and 31-A of the Anti Terrorism Act 1997, a death sentence cannot be awarded in absentia, Qureshi had argued.

The advocate had also said that when a punishment is awarded in absentia, the convict must refer to the trial court according to Article 19(12). However, his client was unable to refer to the ATC in Kandhkot because the records of the case were at the SHC.

He had, therefore, requested the court to dismiss Mota's death penalty and send the case for a retrial.

Read: Judgment in Wali Babar case

On January 13, 2011, GeoNews journalist Wali Khan Babar was going home from his office when he was shot dead in Liaquatabad, Karachi. Shocked by the murder, journalists across the country had protested and mourned his death, demanding the arrest and trial of the culprits.

Journalists protested Wali Khan Babar's death, demanding arrest and trial of culprits. —File
Journalists protested Wali Khan Babar's death, demanding arrest and trial of culprits. —File

Syed Mohammad Ali Rizvi, Shahrukh alias Mani, Naveed alias Polka and Shakil alias Malik had also been indicted for the murder.

Murders linked to Wali Babar case

Two policemen, a police officer’s brother and an informer linked to the investigation into Babar’s murder had been methodically targeted after investigation in the case began.

Rajab Ali Bengali, a police informer, is stated to be the first victim, whose body was found in a sack on Jan 29, 2011, in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.

The second victim was Constable Asif Rafiq who was killed in a drive-by shooting by two men on a motorcycle on Jan 31, 2011. He had identified the vehicle the attackers had used. He was at the spot at the time of the murder and had noted down its registration number.

Head Constable Arshad Kundi is believed to be the third victim linked to the investigation. He was killed in a drive-by-shooting on March 19, 2011, in Sohrab Goth.

On April 7, 2011, a brother of the SHO of Super Market police station, Shafiq Tanoli, was shot dead. Tanoli told reporters that his brother, Naveed Khan, had been killed to pressurise him.