PESHAWAR: A single-member Peshawar High Court bench has granted bail to a man arrested on the charge of killing a two-year-old girl in Lower Dir district.

Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim accepted the bail petition of suspect Salman Khan asking him to produce two surety bonds of Rs500,000 each.

The girl had gone missing on Oct 23, 2020, during a visit along with her mother to a relative’s engagement ceremony in Sharab Kohi area in the jurisdiction of Chakdara police station.

Her father, Mujahid Shah, had formally complained to the police about the daughter’s disappearance on Oct 24 and the complaint was recorded in the ‘daily diary’.

The child’s body carrying marks of violence was found near a hill on Oct 27.

Body with marks of violence was found last Oct

The Chakdara police later registered an FIR under Section 302 (intentional murder) of Pakistan Penal Code and Section 53 (child sexual abuse) of KP Child Protection and Welfare Act.

Though the police didn’t clearly mention whether the child was sexually assaulted, the FIR carried the provision of KP Child Protection and Welfare Act, which deals with child sexual abuse.

The postmortem report recorded marks of violence on the girl’s private parts.

The killing caused a public outrage as several protest demonstrations were held and political leaders visited the girl’s house.

Initially, the police rounded up different suspects but they failed to trace the culprit. Five months later, they made the arrest of the petitioner, from whose house the child had gone missing, public.

The petitioner’s counsel, Mohammad Nabi, said his client was falsely implicated in the case as the police were under pressure over failure to trace the culprit.

He added that no evidence of the crime was available against the petitioner, who was arrested on the basis of hearsay.

The lawyer contended that the medical report didn’t support the prosecution case and that no recovery was made from him.

He said the petitioner wasn’t directly accused of committing the crime by the complainant in his initial report.

The bench observed that the girl’s body was recovered neither from the house of the petitioner nor on his pointation.

It added that there was no offence confession on part of the petitioner.

“At this stage, there is no material on record to reasonably connect the accused with the commission of the offence,” it ruled.

The bench added that the case of the accused needed further probe within the meaning of Section 497(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and as such, he deserved to be released on bail under the current circumstances.

The suspect’s bail petition was turned down by an additional district and sessions judge last month.

That court had declared that a quilt was found near the girl’s body and almost an identical quilt was recovered from the suspect’s house showing he had wrapped the body in that quilt.

It had added that the complainant had said that the suspect didn’t visit his house to condole the girl’s death though they were close relatives.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2021

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