SC dismisses Sindh govt's request to suspend SHC order in Daniel Pearl murder case till appeal hearing

June 29, 2020

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Daniel Pearl, 38, was doing research on religious extremism in Karachi when he was abducted in January 2002. — Dawn archives
Daniel Pearl, 38, was doing research on religious extremism in Karachi when he was abducted in January 2002. — Dawn archives

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down the Sindh government's request for the suspension of the Sindh High Court's (SHC) decision to overturn the conviction of Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, who had allegedly kidnapped and killed Wall Street Journal (WSJ) bureau chief Daniel Pearl.

A three-judge bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Yahya Afridi took up the Sindh government's petition in which it had requested the top court to consider hearing the challenge to the April 2 decision during or soon after the summer vacations, which usually end in the first week of October.

In its appeal, the Sindh government had urged the apex court to set aside the SHC order that modified the sentence of Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh to seven years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs2 million.

The government expressed the apprehension that the accused could abscond along with other co-accused after the SHC modified the sentence of Sheikh and acquitted three co-conspirators, Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib, who were earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Karachi.

During today's hearing, the Sindh government's counsel said that the accused were international terrorists and have been detained under an MPO.

One of the accused was working with terrorist outfits in India while another in Afghanistan, the Sindh government's counsel said, adding that the release of the accused could have serious consequences for the provincial government.

However, Justice Afridi questioned whether it was appropriate to call the accused terrorists after their acquittal. "Keep in mind that one court has already acquitted the accused," he said.

Justice Alam also observed that without solid proof, the SC could not suspend the SHC's decision. "The judgement can only be suspended if it has flaws," he said, adding that the government can extend the MPO if it wishes.

The hearing was adjourned till September.

The apex court at the last hearing on June 1 had asked the Sindh government to furnish the complete record of all the evidence along with its appeal challenging the decision of the high court.

Daniel Pearl, 38, was doing research on religious extremism in Karachi when he was abducted in January 2002.

A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate a month later. Subsequently, Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by the trial court.