KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday asked the advocate general of Sindh to advance arguments as to whether the Supreme Court’s order still holds the field regarding detention of four men acquitted in abduction and murder case of US journalist Daniel Pearl.
A division bench of the SHC adjourned the hearing till Jan 20 on the request of assistant advocate general Muhammad Yousif Rahpoto after he stated that the AG Sindh would appear before the court in this matter on the next date, as today he was busy before the Supreme Court.
Earlier, the alleged contemnors, including additional provincial home secretary Basad Qadeer and special secretary home Aamir Khurshid, senior superintendents of the Karachi and Sukkur central prisons — Mohammad Hassan Sehto and Mumtaz Ahmed Raja — appeared before the court.
However, Sindh Chief Secretary Mumtaz Ali Shah and the home secretary were absent.
Four men acquitted in the abduction and murder case seek release from prison
On Jan 7, provincial law officer Salman Talibuddin had informed the SHC that the SC while hearing the appeals filed by the Sindh government and parents of the slain journalist against the SHC order for setting aside the trial court order on Sept 28 had issued a restraining order against the release of the petitioners till next hearing.
However, he had claimed that the restraining order of the SC still held the field since it had not been expressly vacated or varied by the apex court. He further said that the apex court was hearing the appeals on day-to-day basis.
The bench directed the lawyer for the petitioners to produce the copies of the apex court orders and also asked both sides to advance their arguments on next hearing whether or not the apex court restraining order is still in field.
Petitioners Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil through their lawyers had moved the SHC last month seeking contempt proceedings against the provincial and jail authorities for not setting them free despite court orders.
They submitted that the SHC had set aside the conviction order of a trial court in April and in December 2020 the high court had also declared the preventive detention orders issued by the provincial government to keep them behind bars illegal and ordered the jail authorities to release them.
In the contempt petition the counsel argued that they had approached senior officials of central prisons of Karachi and Sukkur on Dec 24 since Adil had been detained in Sukkur and three others in Karachi along with certified copies of the court order for the release of the petitioners, but they insisted on verification of the order from the SHC. On Dec 26, the verification of the order was also provided to the jail administration by the SHC, but they refused to set them free.
The counsel had argued that as per senior jail officials, they were instructed by the Sindh chief secretary and the additional chief secretary home not to release the petitioners.
An antiterrorism court in Hyderabad had sentenced British-born Omar Sheikh to death in 2002 for murder and kidnapping of the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal for ransom and awarded life term to co-accused for helping the main convict.
Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2021