KARACHI: A model court on Monday awarded life imprisonment to an accused for kidnapping a minor girl for ransom and then killing her.

The accused, Waheed Ahmed, was found guilty of kidnapping Erum, also known as Rani, for ransom and then strangling her for fear of being caught in June 2012.

On Monday, additional district and sessions judge Haleem Ahmed of the model criminal trial court (East) pronounced his verdict reserved after recording evidence and final arguments from both sides.

The judge wrote in his order that the prosecution proved its case against the accused beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The judge awarded life imprisonment to the accused each on the counts of kidnapping and murder and ordered him to pay Rs500,000 compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased. On default, he would undergo an additional six months’ imprisonment.

However, both the sentences would run concurrently.

The judge noted that the reason for awarding the lesser punishment to the accused was that the incident was unseen and motive for the incident was not found, which constituted strong mitigating circumstances for awarding lesser punishment.

The accused was not convicted on the count of rape as the allegation was not proved.

According to the prosecution, Erum, who was about five, went missing as she was playing outside her home on May 1, 2012. The girl’s father later received a call from the accused who said that he had kidnapped his daughter in the Pukka Qila of Hyderabad, and demanded ransom for her safe release, it added.

It further stated that after around one month, the father was called by the police to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital on June 2, 2012, where he identified the body of a minor girl as that of his daughter’s.

The investigating officer submitted the charge sheet. The court indicted the accused, who pleaded not guilty and opted to contest the case.

In his statement, recorded under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the accused denied the allegations, professed to be innocent and asked for justice. However, the court observed that he did not produce any evidence in his defence.

Defence counsel Naeem Akhtar Khan Tanoli argued that there was no evidence to connect the role of his client with the commission of the alleged offences, as the eyewitness was a planted witness while the police framed his client in a fake and false case. He asked the court to acquit his client.

During the trial, eyewitness Fida Hussain deposed that he had seen the young girl with the accused the last time on the day she was reported missing.

The court appreciated his testimony, noting that the prosecution had proved that the deceased was seen last in the company of the accused.

The second witness, investigating officer Sub-inspector Iftikhar Ahmed, also deposed that during interrogation the detained accused disclosed that he had kidnapped the deceased for money and thereafter he was scared and killed her in Kaneez Fatima Society along the back wall of Karachi University by way of strangulation and her body was thrown into the bushes of the society.

State prosecutor Mohammad Younus contended that the medical evidence supported the prosecution’s case and corroborated the version of the accused, who confessed to having killed the child by strangling her.

He added that the police also recovered the mobile phone and the SIM card used by the accused for making calls to the victim’s father to demand the ransom for her recovery and the call data record had determined the same. He pleaded that the accused be punished strictly in accordance with the law.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2019