KARACHI: A model court on Tuesday acquitted a former chairman of the Fishermen Cooperative Society (FCS) in the murder case of a former chief of the Pakistan Steel Mills.

The court of an additional district and sessions’ judge (South), recently designated as a “model criminal trial court” with the aim to conduct swift trial in old pending cases, wrapped up its proceedings in the 20-year-old case within two days.

Former FCS chief Dr Nisar Morai was charged with his alleged involvement in the murder case of former PSM chief Sajjad Hussain, who was gunned down in Defence Housing Authority in 1998.

Asif Zardari, Zulfikar Mirza already exonerated in the case of former PSM chairman, who was gunned down in 1998

On Tuesday, the judge announced his verdict, exonerating Dr Morai of the charges in the case citing lack of sufficient evidence to prove the charges levelled by the prosecution against him.

Initially, the Rangers had picked up the former FCS chief in March 2016 and kept him under three-month preventive detention. Later, his custody was handed over to the police in June since he was named as one of the absconders in the present case. Later, he was released on bail.

According to the prosecution, the former PSM chief was shot dead on Sept 11, 1998 in the DHA while he was on his way home.

Delays in trial

The case against Dr Morai remained pending since the investigating officer showed him as absconder and the trial court declared him proclaimed offender. In 2016, the trial resumed following his arrest, but no progress could be made due to lack of prosecution, judicial sources said.

Therefore, after the case was transferred to the model court, Advocate Sajid Mehboob Shaikh moved an application seeking to appear as a special public prosecutor for the Rangers. He stated that the provincial government deliberately kept avoiding issuing a notification of assigning the matter to the Rangers for prosecution for two years.

However, the judge stopped him from leading the prosecution in the absence of an official notification about it.

During the trial, a district attorney was deputed by the provincial prosecution department in the case, who produced six witnesses and rested its case. The court recorded the statements of witnesses and examined the evidence produced by the prosecution.

Earlier, the investigating officer of the case had filed a charge sheet mentioning that Salimuddin, alias Sallu, and Sohail Ahmed, alias Panga, were arrested in Sept 1999 and during interrogation the two suspects had disclosed that former Sindh home minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza had allegedly telephoned them and asked them to kill the former PSM chief as he was going to make a statement against PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in a corruption case.

The IO had also named Mr Zardari, Dr Mirza, Mohammed Khan Chachar, Salimuddin and Sohail as co-accused in the case.

However, Mr Zardari was acquitted in 2003 and Dr Mirza was also exonerated in 2007 while the trial court had convicted Chachar, but he, too, was later acquitted by the Sindh High Court. Salimuddin and Sohail Ahmed were declared proclaimed offenders in the case.

In his statement, recorded under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Dr Nisar Morai denied the allegations and claimed his innocence.

His defence counsel Khawaja Naveed Ahmed contended that there was no evidence to establish the charges put forward by the prosecution against his client and to connect his alleged role with the commission of the same.

He further contended that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses contained contradictions and failed to corroborate with the alleged evidence brought on the court’s record by the prosecution. Therefore, he asked the court to acquit the accused.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2019

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