KARACHI: An antiterrorism court has reserved its verdict till Oct 28 in a case pertaining to 2013 murder of renowned rights activist Perween Rahman.

Five accused — Abdul Raheem Swati, his son Mohammad Imran Swati, Ayaz Shamzai, Amjad Hussain Khan and Ahmed Khan aka Ahmed Ali aka Pappu Kashmiri — have been charged with the high-profile murder of the 55-year-old activist.

Ms Rahman, the head of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) who devoted her life to the development of the impoverished neighbourhoods across the country, was gunned down near her office in Orangi Town on March 13, 2013.

On Friday, the matter came up before the ATC-VII judge, who is conducting the trial in the judicial complex inside the central prison, for recording final arguments from the defence and prosecution sides.

After recording final arguments from the defence counsel, the state prosecutor and counsel for the complainant, the judge reserved the verdict to be pronounced on Oct 28.

Earlier, Advocate Faisal Siddiqui, counsel for complainant Aquila Ismail, submitted that key accused Rahim Swati, an alleged land grabber, had planned the murder of Ms Rahman and executed it with help of the Taliban over a dispute involving a piece of land in Peerabad.

He said that he had recorded his confessional statement before the then SSP Akhtar Farooqui, under Section 21-H of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 stating that local leaders of the Awami National Party (ANP) had hired Taliban militants to kill Ms Rahman.

The confessional statement added that Shamzai and Swati, said to be local leaders of the ANP, were living near the OPP office and tried to obtain a designated area to build a karate centre, but Ms Rahman had refused to allow it, the counsel added.

Advocate Siddiqui said that all the accused persons were present in a meeting held in January 2013 at Swati’s residence in which they planned Ms Rahman’s murder, adding that they hired a local commander of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Moosa, and Mehfoozullah aka Bhaloo for the murder.

The counsel argued that the confessional statement of the key accused before police was a legally admissible evidence equal to the confessional statement recorded before a judicial magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The court was pleaded to punish the accused strictly in accordance with the law.

The defence counsel for accused Rahim Swati, Imran Swati and Muhammad Ali alias Pappu contended that his clients could not be tried and punished merely on the basis of the evidence full of glaring contradictions.

Advocate Shah Imroze Khan argued that the victim had purportedly disclosed the name of some land grabbers and extortionists including Rahim Swati in an interview given to a foreign radio two years before her assassination, but she had also named some politicians including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Dr Farooq Sattar and party’s former MPA from Orangi Town Abdul Quddos.

However, the Joint Investigation Team, constituted on the directives of the Supreme Court to probe the matter, did not mention the names of these politicians in its report, he added.

The counsel said that the prosecution had relied upon the purported confessional statement voluntarily recorded by Rahim Swati before the SSP Farooqui, which was highly doubtful, as there were serious defects such as the SSP did not give any plausible reason for recording his purported confessional statement himself instead of producing him before a judicial magistrate to record such a statement under Section 164 of the CrPC.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2021

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