An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Karachi on Friday handed death sentences to Mohammad Rashid alias Master and Zahid Abbas Zaidi for the murder of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Zahra Shahid.

The court, however, set free Irfan and Kaleem due to lack of evidence against them.

The PTI leader was killed on the eve of re-polling on Karachi’s National Assembly constituency, NA-250, in 2013. Hours after the veteran party leader was shot dead, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had blamed the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — which split into MQM-London and MQM-Pakistan in 2016 — for her murder.

According to Rangers' prosecutor, both the convicts were associates of the London-based group of the MQM and had confessed to their involvement in the murder.

During the course of proceedings in the case, eyewitnesses had identified the convicts during a parade in the presence of a magistrate. According to the prosecution, they had killed Shahid to scare the PTI leadership in Karachi.

The police claimed to have arrested Rashid in an illicit weapons case on Sept 25, 2013. The prosecution claimed that during interrogations he had confessed to his involvement in the case of the PTI leader. Later, the police arrested Zahid Abbas Zaidi on Oct 2, 2013.

Shahid, a senior leader of the PTI, was shot dead outside her house in the Defence Housing Authority on May 18, 2013.

In pictures: Protest over the murder of Zahra Shahid

A case was registered under Sections 302 (premeditated murder) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 at the Gizri police station.

In the investigation report, the investigating officer had shown Junaid Bukhari, Tariq Nawab and Asif alias Ganja as absconders.

According to the report, the prosecution witnesses included a driver of the slain leader, who had rightly picked out both suspects during an identification parade before a magistrate.

The case

In their final arguments, the defence counsel — Latif Pasha and Javed Ahmed Chattari — said that their clients were innocent, having nothing to do with the offence alleged.

They contended that the detained men belonged to the MQM, thus they were framed in the case on the basis of political rivalry.

They further argued that all the detained men were picked up by law enforcement agencies days after the alleged murder took place and their families had petitioned the Sindh High Court over their detention.

The defence also mentioned that the four defence witnesses, including relatives of the detained men and others, had deposed before the court that the law enforcers took them into custody from their homes or workplaces, which was witnessed by many people.

In July, the prosecution had rested its side in the case after examining around 15 prosecution witnesses in the case.

Claiming their innocence, the defence counsel had pleaded to acquit all the accused of the charges levelled by the prosecution, alleging it had made a concocted and false case against them.