The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday ordered a retrial of the Shahzeb Khan murder case in a sessions court after revoking the punishments previously awarded to Shahrukh Jatoi and three others.
The SHC made the decision while hearing a criminal review application filed by Shahrukh Jatoi's lawyer, Advocate Farooq H. Naek, in August 2016. The application had sought a retrial of the case in a juvenile court.
In 2013, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) had awarded the death penalty to co-accused Shahrukh Jatoi and Siraj Talpur for Shahzeb's murder. Siraj's younger brother, Sajjad Ali Talpur, and his servant, Ghulam Murtaza Lashari, had been handed life sentences.
A couple of months after the sentence, however, Shahzeb's parents had issued a formal pardon to the convicts.
Shahrukh Jatoi's counsel today argued that Shahzeb's murder had been the result of a personal enmity and should not have been tried in an ATC.
Further, Naek contended that his client was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed and, therefore, he should not have been tried under anti-terrorism laws.
On these grounds, Naek asked the court to order a retrial of the case in a regular court.
The Sindh prosecutor general, countering the arguments, pointed out that the SHC had still not approved the pardon issued by Shahzeb's parents. Since a final decision had not been made, he argued, the case could not be restarted.
At this, Justice Salahuddin, who was presiding over the proceedings, expressed surprise, saying that as the case was tried in an ATC and included clauses of terrorism, granting a pardon should not have been possible in the first place.
The judge. however, said the case could be sent for a retrial in a sessions court. Subsequently, he decided on a fresh trial of the case in a sessions court, disposing of the punishments previously handed to the four accused.
The murder of Shahzeb Khan
Twenty-year-old Shahzeb Khan, the son of Deputy Superintendent of Police Aurangzeb Khan, had been gunned down in Karachi's Defence Housing Authority on the night of December 24, 2012 when he was returning home along with his sister after attending a wedding.
Shahzeb was killed for picking a fight with one of the suspects’ servants, who had verbally threatened and harassed his sister.
Then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had taken suo motu notice of the incident, which sparked widespread outrage across the country through newspapers, TV channels and social media.
As the prime accused belonged to powerful feudal families of Sindh, the incident had triggered a nationwide debate over whether the country’s elite could be held accountable for crimes they committed.
Later, after a speedy trial, Judge Ghulam Mustafa Memon of Anti-Terrorism Court-3 sentenced Shahrukh Jatoi and co-accused Nawab Siraj Talpur to death. Sajjad Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari, the Talpurs’ servant, were handed life imprisonment for their involvement in the murder.
An application — filed on behalf of the victim’s family in the SHC under Section 345 (2) of the Criminal Procedures Code, asking the court to allow the convicts and the legal heirs of the victim to settle the matter out of court — has been pending disposal.
An outrageous crime
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 the complaint of the deceased’s father. 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 unfortunate episode started with the misbehaviour of accused Lashari with the victim’s sister. She stated in the trial court that Lashari had hurled indecent remarks at her as she was about to enter her 11th-floor apartment upon her return from a wedding.
The teenage girl deposed that she immediately phoned her mother about the misbehaviour of the Talpurs’ servant. The girl’s mother stated in her deposition in court that she immediately sent her son home as his sister was in trouble.
The victim returned and had an altercation with Lashari, which 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.
The victim did what his mother asked him to do, but the accused persons did not accept the apology, saying that they would be satisfied only if Lashari, who had been employed as a cook by the Talpurs only two days before the incident, was allowed to slap the victim.
On hearing those terms, the victim’s mother directed her son to leave the place. Immediately after Shahzeb's departure, Shahrukh Jatoi had taken out his pistol and threatened that he would kill Shahzeb.
After the four co-accused in the case had also departed, the victims’ parents went to the apartment of the two accused Talpurs’ father, Nawab Imdad Ali Taplur, to settle the matter.
However, the accused persons meanwhile intercepted the victim at Karachi's Khayaban-i-Bahria and shot him dead.
Two friends of the victim, Muhammad Shah and Muhammad Ahmed Zuberi, who had chased the accused persons fearing an assault, 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. Nawab Sajjad Ali Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari then walked up to the victim’s car and asked Shahrukh Jatoi to kill the victim as he was still alive.
Jatoi had then fired more shots at the victim, ensuring his demise.