KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Wednesday acquitted two accused in the SP Chaudhry Aslam murder case due to lack of evidence.

Accused Zafar Ali alias Saeen and Obaid alias Aabi were tried for their alleged involvement in a suicide attack on the motorcade of SP Mohammed Aslam Khan, better known as Chaudhry Aslam, on the Lyari Expressway in January 2014 in which the SP and his two police guards were killed.

The then chief of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Mullah Fazlullah, was declared a proclaimed offender in the case prior to his death in a drone attack in the Kunar province of Afghanistan in June 2018.

On Wednesday, the matter was fixed before the ATC-XIII judge. Both accused were produced in court from prison.

The incident took place in early 2014 and the accused were indicted in Oct 2017

The judge ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove charges against the accused beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt.

The court exonerated the duo from the charges of murder, attempted murder, common intention and possessing explosives allegedly used in the suicide attack on the SP’s convoy on Jan 9, 2014.

The court also directed the jail superintendent to release them forthwith, if their custody was not required in any other case.

On Feb 13, the judge had reserved his verdict after the state prosecutor and the defence counsel concluded their arguments in the case.

According to the prosecution, the attack was carried out at the behest of the then TTP leadership and the suicide bomber was identified as Naeemullah, a resident of Pirabad and student of a local seminary, who lived in Afghanistan for many years.

The court had indicted both the accused on Oct 20, 2017 after the investigating officer filed a final investigation report against them for allegedly committing the offence.

The accused pleaded not guilty and had opted to contest the case.

On Jan 15, 2018 the court had declared TTP’s Mullah Fazlullah as a proclaimed offender after the IO showed him absconder and untraceable. The court had separated his case and issued perpetual warrant for his arrest until his arrest or surrender.

On Jan 20, the judge recorded statements of the accused under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code after the prosecution rested its side.

Both the accused denied the charges and pleaded their innocence. Defence counsel Abid Zaman pleaded to the court to acquit them of the charges.

On the other hand, state prosecutor Ghulam Murtaza Maitlo had argued that the prosecution had sufficient evidence to connect the role of the present accused with the commissioning of the alleged offence.

He maintained that circumstantial, ocular, medical, forensic and other evidence fully corroborated the case of the prosecution against both the men.

The prosecutor further argued that the role of the accused persons had been established during the course of investigation and recording of the evidence during the trial.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2020